TALLMADGE — City planners are recommending Tallmadge Council grant a conditional zoning certificate to the Tallmadge City School District, a move which is a prerequisite to the construction of new athletic facilities north of the existing high school.

The Tallmadge Planning Commission conducted a public hearing on the request Wednesday, where a handful of residents voiced concerns about the potential for an increase in traffic and stormwater problems.  Planners voted unanimously to forward the matter to city council. Lawmakers are anticipated to vote on the request in August, following their traditional summer recess.

A conditional zoning certificate was previously granted for the 55-plus acre site on which Tallmadge High stands. Since the school district recently acquired additional acreage to accommodate all phases of the proposed athletic complex, increasing the size of the site to 85-plus acres on North Munroe Road, review through the conditional zoning process is again required.

Greg Chaplin of Hasentab Architects, the applicant, said the project will unfold in phases. Phase one, which is expected to be completed by August 2019, will involve construction of a 3,360-seat stadium, with a turf field and synthetic track, he reported. Home bleachers are envisioned on the west side. The development also will include construction of a new field house at the south end of the stadium, Chaplin said, which will include home and visitor locker rooms, a concession stand, offices and some storage. As funds become available, Chaplin said phase two will be the development of the existing Munroe School site into a baseball field.  

Planning Commission member Patrick Larson said that for many of the years he has served on the commission, stormwater has been "a real hot button for me." Acknowledging there could be issues with the stadium development, Larson asked for assurances they would be properly addressed. Engineer Mary Ann Driscoll said the architect had provided an initial set of stormwater plans for review but Driscoll said they didn’t contain enough information to perform a complete review; she is awaiting a revised plan. Planning Commission Chairman Gerald Taylor said the architect needs the conditional zoning approval of the property before he can proceed with detailed design drawings for stormwater and lighting.

Residents Bill and Earlene Laymon and Margaret Trochowski said they fear the proposal will aggravate existing traffic problems in the neighborhood. 

"We try to be the best partners we can," Rick Kellar, president of the Tallmadge City School District Board of Education stated, adding, "We know that neighbors have concerns. We’re working closely with the city engineer, police and law enforcement for safety issues regarding the site … and while it’s only a handful of nights, we know that it’s at those peak usage times, when we have to be the most concerned."

Mayor Dave Kline said he considers the proposal "a great project" in "a good location."

In November 2016, voters approved a 0.9-mill athletics bond issue to move the outdoor athletic facilities for high school sports from the middle school campus to the high school campus. What’s eyed is a new stadium and baseball and softball complexes at an estimated cost between $10 million and $12 million.

The conditional zoning certificate being requested concerns land incorporating the current high school as well as the recent purchase of 2 acres from Community Baptist Church and 10 acres from Mindale Farms, north of the high school.

Issue 44 will generate $7 million, which the superintendent says is enough to move all varsity athletics to the high school campus. Funding also will be sought from private donors. The athletics bond issue will cost the owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000 $2.63 per month, according to Tallmadge City School District Treasurer Jeff Hostetler.

Reporter Ellin Walsh can be reached at 330-541-9419, ewalsh@recordpub.com or @EllinWalsh_RPC.