AURORA — The density of housing proposed for the former Sea World of Ohio parking lot and campground north of Treat Road was a major objection of several residents and city officials Wednesday.
City Council chambers were packed with residents for the planning commission meeting, as Jim O’Connor and Brian Uhlenbrock from Pulte Homes outlined plans to build 321 homes on about 111 acres, set aside 20.6 acres for businesses and donate 112 acres to the city to be used as passive parkland.
"We’ve been working on these plans for some time and we realize it could take another year before this development gets off the ground," said O’Connor. "We believe this is a responsible project that would have a positive effect on the area."
O’Connor said the project represents a $110 million investment. He said if the city approves the project, Pulte would like to start development in 2020. The planning panel accepted the plans for study.
Pulte plans to offer three styles of homes — 67 single-family units ranging in price from $330,000 to $410,000, 109 townhomes starting at $275,000 and 145 ranch-style homes of about 1,600 square feet mostly for "empty-nesters."
"We want to offer consistency in architectural designs and diversity in commercial uses." O’Connor said. "Businesses could include a daycare center, wireless communications store, specialty food store, restaurants, medical facilities and a microbrewery.
"We’ve trying to be transparent, and we wanted to get the plans out to the public as soon as possible. We welcome input from the community and city officials. With Liberty Ford nearby, we believe this project will bring vibrancy to the area."
O’Connor said the city could build trails on the parkland, and the Norfolk Southern Railroad right-of-way could be acquired for a rails to trails project. That section of railroad is not included in FirstEnergy’s plans to erect new transmission lines.
"On the donated parkland, the city could incorporate the history of the area by possibly displaying photos and artifacts from Sea World and Geauga Lake Park along the trails," O’Connor suggested.
Several residents and city officials objected to many of the homes being so close together. The 321 planned homes would be situated on 111 acres. Technically, the plans call for 1.4 units per acre, but the entire 247 acres are figured into that calculation.
Councilman John Kudley joined many with concerns over density and the impact on Aurora’s schools. He also said the city could incur problems with the parkland, including liability issues since there is a quarry on the former campground site.
Kudley was unhappy that Council was not informed of Pulte’s plans before they were announced in the media. "This is an important project, and it is embarrassing that we did not know about it ahead of time," he said. "We need to be kept in the loop."
Several other residents also were concerned about the impact on the schools. But O’Connor said Pulte predicts only about 20 percent of the planned units would be occupied by school-age children. "Many of the units will be occupied by those 55 and older," he said.
Planning panelist Peter French said the subdivision resembles a residential conservation development, which allows more homes in a smaller space, and the city eliminated those types of developments a few months ago.
Mary Kohanski, Deb Conti and Sherri Gloor were among residents who expressed concerns about density and impact on the schools. "I don’t want to see the integrity of our schools impeded," said Gloor.
"There are a lot of challenges to this property," said Jim Pinter. "And the argument about impact to the schools has merit. Nobody can predict who is going to buy these homes."
Some of the residents who spoke expressed the opinion that Aurora is getting overdeveloped. "I like living in Aurora the way it is now," said Kohanski. "We have plenty of open space, but I don’t like to see homes piled on top of one another."
Councilman Jim Vaca took issue with the proposed homes being only 25 feet from the street and so close together. "You’d barely be able to park a car in your driveway," he said. "I’d like to see some of the lots eliminated."
Councilwoman / planning commission chairman Kathi Grandillo said there will be much more discussion about Pulte’s plans before the panel decides anything, and she urged residents to be aware of upcoming meetings and keep track of the agendas.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400, ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.