TWINSBURG TOWNSHIP — After hearing numerous concerns over an agreement to sell up to 100 township-owned lots in Twinsburg Heights to a residential developer, Trustees have rescinded the agreement with K. Hovnanian homes and will talk with residents about the future of the lots.
At the Trustees’ Nov. 28 meeting, a group calling itself Concerned Citizens of Twinsburg Heights submitted a petition asking Trustees to rescind the agreement. More than 50 Heights residents attended that meeting.
Trustees approved the agreement Sept. 13, and rescinded it Dec. 5. Township Manager Rob Kagler said talks are in progress with K. Hovnanian for a mutual release from the agreement, which he believes will be forthcoming.
Kagler said the first talk with residents about the available lots will be Jan. 9 at 6 p.m., and subsequent sessions are likely.
"We appreciate the residents coming forward and sharing their thoughts with us," said Township Trustee Jim Balogh. "We won’t rush into this; we want to establish a high level of communication with residents."
A petition asking trustees to rescind the agreement, which was signed by about 70 Twinsburg Heights residents, was presented to Trustees Nov. 28 after Kagler gave a presentation on the township’s efforts to improve the Heights neighborhood.
Gregory Glover, who presented the petition, said many of Heights residents were unhappy they were not informed about the agreement before it was approved.
In a press release dated Nov. 19, Trustees said K. Hovnanian’s $850,000 purchase of the lots would supplement ongoing neighborhood stabilization and improvement efforts, put vacant and underutilized property back into productive use and increase tax valuation.
"Construction of new homes on vacant lots aligns with and supports township planning and investments to improve the quality of available home stock," said Balogh in the release.
Kagler said under the agreement, the builder would have paid $7,500 apiece for some of the lots in 2019, and that amount would have risen to $10,000 per lot in 2023. The overall amount of money received for the 100 lots would have been around $850,000.
The group’s petition also cited opposition to K. Hovnanian’s exclusive ability to acquire additional lots.
"Current Heights homeowners should have first right of refusal to purchase these lots," states the petition. Some of the residents say they have approached the township to acquire available lots, but have been thwarted.
The group also opposes building homes on 40-foot lots, "as it is a violation of our zoning code and will not increase housing values," and opposes "any type of subsidy to purchase the lots and to target first-time homebuyers who are at a high risk of default."
Rather than elected officials working cooperatively with K. Hovnanian, the petition says residents would rather see the officials "work with us to identify opportunities that exclusively benefit residents."
The group believes the high number of new homes would decrease open space and increase congestion, thereby decreasing home values.
"We value our open spaces in the Heights neighborhood," the petition states.
In summary, the petition states, "We are not opposed to change. However, we require our elected officials to work with residents to form a mutually conducive plan for our historic neighborhood to maintain its value."
Kagler said the township reached out to developers of large plots, and K. Hovnanian expressed the greatest interest in building in the neighborhood.
The agreement with K. Hovnanian had called for the builder to acquire the lots over five years so it could build 61 homes, including 39 on double (80-foot wide) lots and 22 on single (40-foot wide), mostly isolated lots.
K. Hovnanian planned for the initial target starting prices of the homes to be from $160,000 to $180,000, with incentives offered for a lower ($150,000) starting price.
In his Nov. 28 presentation, Kagler said the Heights subdivision was platted in the 1920s, contains just more than 700 lots, was under no township zoning regulations until the 1950s and had no public water or sewer service until the 1970s.
The township owns about 120 lots there, with 111 released for new construction and 11 to be held for later disposition. There are nine side lots to be offered to eligible adjacent owners, and some attendees said they would like to acquire them.
In recent years, Kagler said the township has spent millions of dollars to improve the neighborhood. Streets and drainage problems have been fixed, recreational facilities have been added and the neighborhood has seen rehabilitation and new construction of homes.
But he added the area has seen considerable turnover of properties, many vacant and unmaintained houses and absentee landowners. The vacant and unkempt homes is why the township came into possession of the lots.
He said the township has pursued more aggressive zoning code enforcement, developed a community park and garden, and is looking at a new ballfield and upgrading facilities at an open area on Harvard Road.
Trustee Thomas Schmidt said he believes in the sanctity of the Heights, and said the township is willing to work with residents on neighborhood improvement plans.
Balogh said the township would like to see positive improvements in the Heights much like what occurred in Marwell Estates, where the Drees Co. has built several new homes.
"We realize the 40-foot lot widths in the Heights is a challenge, though," Balogh said.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 Ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.