by Lauren Krupar

Reporter

Cuyahoga Falls -- City Councilmembers rejected 10-1 what would have been the city's first green development May 14.

Council President Don Walters (D-6) said he and his colleagues had to be "very careful" about setting a precedent.

"This green development is uncharted waters," Walters said. "We have to be very careful with this first development."

While Councilmember Mary Ellen Pyke (R-2) said she was in favor of a green development, she said the density was too much.

"A green development would be a jewel in Cuyahoga Falls and would be an accomplishment that would be the envy of neighboring communities, communities around the state and those in surrounding states," Pyke said. "I cannot support a project that provides this kind of density."

Heritage Ridge was set to include 110 homes on an 85-acre area off Quick Road near Woodridge High School.

Robert Benjamin, vice president and director of real estate for Heritage Development Co., the developers of the proposed subdivision, said the vote against the plans was a "real disappointment" and added the company needs to "regroup" before deciding what to do next.

"The administration and City Council have led me down the wrong path here," Benjamin said. "I think we've been completely misled."

Councilmember Doug Flinn (R-4) was the sole vote in favor of the development and regulatory plans.

"I believe that it was the right thing to do," Flinn said, explaining that approving the plans would have allowed developers to present a revised plan sooner than a negative vote does.

Now, Flinn said, developers must propose a project that is "substantially different" or show new facts were discovered about the property before a proposal could come before planning commission.

About the proposal

The vote comes after more than a year of discussion between city officials and developers Heritage Development. According to the plans, the 110 homes would be built on 35.3 acres with approximately 49 acres preserved as green space.

The development would have been the first built using a green overlay district, one of several overlay districts allowed in the city's planning and development code. A green overlay increases a parcel's base zoning in exchange for using green development practices or preserving natural features.

According to the planning commission's recommendation, to build 110 homes, the developers would have constructed the homes using five-star green development practices while the project would be rated at the three-star level. Both star levels are the highest for their category, planners said.

Developers had requested to build three-star level homes at the previous meeting, lowering the density to approximately 96 homes.

"I understand the developer thought it was their option that the whole [energy star] chart was approved [by planning commission], but that wasn't the case," Walters said.

The star levels were created by the planning department based on green practices used in the Pacific Northwest, city planners said.

Green developments also use conservation elements, city planners said.

Residents of the area -- which is zoned R-1 or one home per every 1.5 acre -- objected to the density of the proposed development and the problems the additional population might cause on Quick Road and for the Woodridge Local School District.

Dr. Jeff Graham, the superintendent of the Woodridge District, said he was concerned about the possible increase in student enrollment and the potential increase in the rate of development in the area.

The increase in traffic volume was another concern, added Graham.

"Everybody's going to work at the same time our students are coming to school," said Graham. "It's pretty crowded here now."

Even without the development, Graham noted there will be a 20 percent increase in student enrollment at the high school for the 2007-08 school year.

"I'm glad City Council looked at it as in-depth as they did. I feel confident they made a very well-informed decision," said Graham.

E-mail: lkrupar@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-686-3915