TALLMADGE -- A redrawn proposal for apartments on the city's north side was no more to the liking of residents or the Planning and Zoning Commission than the original; the commission has recommended that City Council reject it later this month.
At issue is a plan submitted by Merryweather Real Estate, on behalf of the Wilma C. Platt Trust, for 32 units on 3 acres at 338 W. Howe Road. Part of the proposed site is in Tallmadge, with the remainder in Cuyahoga Falls. In February, Tim Merryweather, president of Merryweather Real Estate, sought a conditional zoning designation for the site which would have paved the way for the development of a 54-unit apartment complex there. Two separate buildings were envisioned at that time, one with 18 units and three parking garages in Tallmadge, and the other with 36 units in Cuyahoga Falls. Merryweather withdrew that plan after a standing room only crowd of neighbors packed city hall urging the Planning and Zoning Commission to oppose it, raising issues ranging from density and traffic to potential sink holes and the possibility of sinking home values.
Since that time, Tim Merryweather reported his firm has reworked the project to create a concept they believed would be more acceptable to nearby residents featuring a reduction in density, an increase in green space and a lower building profile. Merryweather presented an overview of the revised proposal to the Planning and Zoning Commission May 4. As proposed now, the development would consist of six separate buildings that would be two stories high; each building would contain five or six townhouse-style apartments, Merryweather reported. "All the units are going to have three bedrooms ," he said, adding, "Three-bedroom units are often requested but they are very rarely available on the local market. He said they would be designed to appeal to "upscale clientele." Twenty of the proposed units would be located in Tallmadge.
THE ISSUE: Merryweather Real Estate has submitted a revised request for a conditional zoning special nonresidential designation which would allow it to develop a 32-unit apartment complex at 338 West Howe Road in an R-3 Residential zoning district.
LOCAL IMPACT: Surrounding neighbors say they still object because they don't want to see rental units built "no matter the size, design," according to petitions submitted to the city. They claim the project , as proposed, is too dense and will aggravate already existing traffic problems in the area.
Despite the revisions, residents who addressed the commission said they still weren't willing to extend the welcome mat to the proposed apartment development.
Wellingshire Circle resident Pam Klundt presented the body with a petition signed by 105 people urging them to reject Merryweather's conditional zoning request. Among their stated concerns are the proposed density of the project, noise, traffic problems, the potential loss of property values and the fact that construction could affect underground mines.
Sylvia Petrosky, a resident of the Ridgewood Condominium complex, asserted the proposal "seeks to compact cars, pets and people." She said the plan runs counter to residents' opinions as compiled in the city's 2013 Comprehensive Plan Survey; in that poll, Petrosky said the majority opposed the construction of more rental units in Tallmadge. She suggested the land would be better used as a small farm.
Despite the developer's intention to reduce the number of apartments, another Ridgewood Condominium resident, Mike Comeraa, claimed proceeding with it would still create "the same problems." "We're trying to put too many people into too small a place," he said. When he purchased a condo in Ridgewood, Comeraa said it was because he liked the surroundings and how well the complex was maintained. "There's nothing like personal home ownership as opposed to renters," he stated, adding condo owners in Ridgewood are not allowed to rent out their units. Comeraa also suggested the proposal has the potential to worsen existing problems with traffic, noise and water runoff. "It's a nice looking plan and I think it would be great somewhere else in Tallmadge or in Cuyahoga Falls," Comeraa said, "I just don't think it belongs in our residential neighborhood."
Dressing up an apartment like a townhouse doesn't change the fact that it's a rental, Earlington Circle resident Paul Bertsch declared. "And that's bad for the neighborhood," he said.
"It almost appears like we're becoming a cash cow for every corporation that wants to come in and that's not what I moved to Tallmadge for," North Avenue resident Gerna Islay said. " Every time you turn around it's like a building here, and a building there, and there's more going up. I'm having a hard time keeping up with it."
Tallmadge Mayor Dave Kline said city officials have met with the developer many times; the mayor observed Merryweather has made significant changes to his original proposal. Planning and Zoning Commission members acknowledged that but they still voted to recommend that City Council reject it.
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4 to 0 to recommend rejection of Merryweather's conditional zoning request, with member Dianne Sumego absent. Tallmadge City Council is anticipated to vote on the proposal May 25.
"This is probably a great project," Planning Commission member Patrick Larson stated, "but this is not the location for this great project. And I just can't see a compelling reason why we should change the complexion of that whole area even though we've changed and accommodated some of the issues that we talked about at the last meeting."
While the apartments appear to be "attractive," Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Gerald Taylor described the proposed density as being "pretty high for that 3 acres." Taylor said he agreed with Larson "that just plopping down (an) apartment complex in an area of residential doesn't seem to be a good plan."
Commission member Julie Oliver said she "commended" Merryweather for taking the time, effort and expense to revise the project. "Unfortunately, I do not feel that this is in the best interest of the community," Oliver said.
Commission member Stephan Ryder said he concurred with his colleagues. "I don't feel it is harmonious to this area," Ryder stated. "These are apartment units surrounded by privately owned units. And even though the modifications tried to appease some of the comments that were made last time, I don't think it was sufficient. I mean, you still have apartment units, and you still have a good number of apartment units there, where there is a very high traffic volume, a very dangerous hill there ... It may be the right project for a different location, but not in this particular location."
Tallmadge City Council is anticipated to vote on the proposal May 25.
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC