AURORA -- Commercial and industrial properties, Community Reinvestment Areas and density of residential zoning were among topics discussed at the city's master plan review commission meeting March 14.
Panelists were given two maps of Aurora and asked to draw lines between areas where they would like to see a non-motorized connection between two points. These will be plotted on a dry erase board at the April 11 meeting to see where themes and priorities appear.
The panel's consensus was that the city has adequate commercial and industrial space. Panelists felt that big-box stores are definitely not desired.
Several of the panelists said they believe the city has enough amenities and do not see the need for extensive retail growth.
Emil Liszniansky of the consulting firm Envision stated multi-use development like that proposed for the former Geauga Lake Park property is the modern commercial trend now. That does not include big-box shopping centers. He cited Crocker Park and Hudson's First & Main as examples.
He said the trend of shopping malls, which once was popular, has run its course. Panelist Jennifer Stanley stated multi-use may be better in the long run because it is flexible.
Planning-Zoning-Building Director Denise Januska explained multi-use has higher landscape standards than other commercial districts. A couple of panelists used Liberty Ford's Aurora campus plan and Cleveland Clinic in Solon as examples of that trend.
Liszniansky talked about the differences between a land use plan and zoning code, noting a land use plan is for advisory purposes while a zoning code is legally binding. The city's last land use plan was done in 2013, and he does not expect major changes to that plan.
A brief overview of the city's 13 zoning classifications was given, and panelists viewed a map of where those classifications are located.
The non-conforming use at Aurora Farms Premium Outlets was discussed. The complex's certificate designates the maximum square footage allowed for operations. It was noted if the center shuts downs, the certificate would come to an end.
It was noted that Aurora is nearing 16,000 population, and there was discussion about the undeveloped properties available and the desired density for them.
Comments were made about not wanting cookie-cutter houses to be erected that may not hold their value down the road. Januska was asked if certain builders can be prohibited from building in town, and she answered "no." She warned against creating a city that has no affordable housing.
It was noted the city has no maintenance code to enforce upkeep of current homes and buildings. A maintenance code was recommended by the last master plan review commission, and it would be up to the current panel to decide if it wants to reaffirm that recommendation.
Januska explained that changes to the residential conservation development no longer allow development in R-3 and R-4 districts such as is now allowed at the Villas of Bertram. The new document specifies units must be single-family and there must be parcel lines, not close together homes.
Januska listed several ways to control density, including making the RCD stricter and strengthening riparian setbacks.
Ryan Smalley of Envision compiled a list of possible recommendations from the commission, which included low-density residential, stricter design standards and landscaping guidelines.
The overlay district idea being studied for Town Center was discussed. It would allow limited commercial uses in homes to provide an economic boost, while design standards would bring historic preservation.
Januska talked briefly about utility poles and cellular equipment that exist today. Those items will be covered at the next meeting as part of an infrastructure discussion.