NORTHFIELD CENTER — Settlement of a long-standing dispute between the township and Spitzer A-Team over zoning of acreage surrounding the Spitzer Chevrolet dealership on Route 82 may be near.
Township trustees approved a memorandum of understanding Wednesday night, which, if favored by a Summit County Common Pleas Court judge and the Macedonia-Northfield Center JEDD board, would lead to rezoning 16.6 acres from residential to commercial.
It also likely would result in the dismissal of Spitzer’s lawsuit against the township, which was filed about a year ago after trustees denied Spitzer’s request to rezone the property.
However, if a consent decree is not granted by the court on or before April 30, the memorandum will expire unless further extended upon mutual agreement by the parties.
"Our legal counsel has been working for months to resolve this matter, and the parties have talked about a number of issues," said Trustee Chairman Russ Mazzola. "This memorandum gives the township some protections ... If the township would have continued to fight the lawsuit and eventually lost, we could have ended up with no protections."
After approving the memo, trustees would not comment further or answer some residents’ questions as advised by their legal counsel, saying the matter is still in litigation until the judge grants a consent decree.
Spitzer owns 43.7 acres of vacant land around the dealership — 6.1 along Route 82 that is already zoned commercial and the remainder zoned residential. The settlement would allow 16.6 acres behind the dealership to be rezoned commercial, with 21 acres further north remaining residential.
Spitzer had filed a complaint against the township last year asking that the court compel the township to rezone the property to C-1 commercial.
Spitzer questioned the existing residential zoning classification and said that because there is no current roadway access from the lot to Routes 8 or 82, because there is a telecommunications tower on the property and because the land is close to other commercially zoned land, "it is not reasonable to expect the property can be developed for single-family residences."
The complaint also cites the fact that the Summit County Planning Commission favored the proposed rezoning to C-1.
When the rezoning request was initiated in late 2015, the Meijer grocery store chain was interested in purchasing the property, saying its store would bring about 250 jobs to the township.
Spitzer officials have since said the deal is not definite.
Trustees said Wednesday the C-1 commercial zoning would allow a single building to be erected on the 16.6 acres, but not multiple, shopping center-type buildings.
If the consent decree is approved, the memo states Spitzer would agree not to make any further requests for rezoning the residentially zoned land.
Subject to the court’s approval of the consent decree, Spitzer hopes to sell the commercially-zoned land to a developer, with that land then placed into the township-Macedonia Joint Economic Development District.
Any building erected there must have Western Reserve design elements, must comply with all applicable stormwater regulations and setbacks must be 90 feet from the western boundary of the property.
The developer would have to build a 4-foot earthen mound topped with evergreen trees to separate the commercial land from the existing residentially-zoned properties.
In addition, no loading docks could face toward the west and lighting must be no-spill to minimize its effect on the surrounding residential parcels.
If the rezoned land is developed for a commercial use, the developer must replace and / or extend the sidewalk along Route 82 from Beechwood Drive to the east side of the auto dealership’s property.
Spitzer also has agreed to make donations of trucks and money to the township. One would be a 2019 Ford F-750 chassis for use as a dump truck, plus $56,000, and the other would be a Ford F-750 chassis for use as a snowplow, plus an additional $50,000.
One resident who lives near the Spitzer property said she believes commercial development of the rezoned property would be a loss for adjacent homeowners, saying residents already face the headache of heavy traffic on Route 82.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400, ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.