Nordonia Hills -- School officials say a zoning change must be approved to complete a deal that would bring an apartment complex to the north end of Sagamore Hills and $1.9 million to the school district.

The Board of Education unanimously approved an agreement that would lead to the sale of 36 acres of vacant land the district owns off Dunham Road in Sagamore Hills. The deal is contingent on the township agreeing to rezone the property for multi-unit residential use, according to Board President Jim Virost.

The property is part of 93 acres the district purchased from the state in 2003 for $1.1 million.

Beachwood-based residential developer Redwood Acquisitions, LLC has agreed to purchase the property, with plans to construct "condo-like single story apartments," said Redwood Acquisitions partner David Conwill. The company is also developing the $14-million, 172-unit senior development Trails of Hudson on 34 acres in Hudson.

Conwill said the school property is currently zoned R-1 single family residential, which does not allow the type of homes his company plans to build. Conwill said a lot split will also be necessary since the land being purchased is not a single parcel.

"That's a part of the rezoning process," he said.

Superintendent Joe Clark said that because the development will appeal mainly to senior citizens, it will not add to the district's enrollment and expenses.

"This is not something that will bring kids to the district," he said.

He later said the development would include "upscale, single family luxury apartments marketed towards empty-nesters."

Board member Doug Masteller said that Redwood Acquisitions has eight months to complete that process, or there would be "extensions that need to be processed."

Virost said the district plans to use the money to help pay for the completion of high school athletic field renovations that began several years ago and included a new stadium, which opened in 2010. He said the district has not decided what to do with the remaining 56 acres.

"We feel that at this time and for the foreseeable future, this is the best use of the land and maximizes our proceeds," said Virost, adding he expects a mixed reaction from the community.

"There are people who are not going to be happy about this. There are people who are going to be thrilled about this," he said.

The district used $6 million generated by a bond issue, which is being repaid with a 0.42-mill, 22-year levy that voters approved in November 2008, to pay for work done so far. The district also has $1.8 million set aside that can only be used for capital improvement projects. This left a $2 million gap that the district has been trying to bridge.

"This certainly goes a long way towards doing that," said Masteller, referring to the sale. "I think we've found a solution here."

Board member Steve Bittel, however, said spending the money on the athletic fields has not been discussed.

"The funds have to be approved by the board, the usage," he said. "We have multiple things we need to resolve."

Conwill said the type of homes, which would be "high-end" rental units, are for "folks who don't want to maintain a home anymore, are retired." He said he did not yet know how many units the development will have, but added neighboring residents need not worry about the property being packed too tightly, as it would have a "low-density open space theme."

"Our plan is to set aside large amounts of land for greenspace," he said. "We're looking for this to be a low impact development."

He said the development will also increase the value of the property.

"It's very much a tax generating opportunity for the township," he said.

The district purchased the land, the former site of a children's psychiatric hospital, in 2003 for $1.1 million as a possible site for another school if the district ever needed to expand.

An additional $400,000 was spent to demolish the hospital. The district, however, attempted to auction off the entire 93 acres in November 2010 to raise funds for the athletic field project, but the Board decided not to sell because the highest bid was less than $500,000.

Virost said the remaining property would be large enough for another school and that is still a possibility.

He also said that the total amount the district paid for the 93 acres, along with the hospital demolition, cost a little over $16,000 per acre while the district is selling the 36 acres for nearly $53,000 per acre.

"It's a fairly substantial increase," he said.


Phone: 330-541-9432