AURORA — Density continued to be a major concern when Pulte Group officials provided more details to the city’s planning commission June 5 about its planned mixed-use development on former Sea World and Geauga Lake Park property.
Jim O’Connor and Brian Uhlenbrock from the Pulte Group said the overall plan has not changed from when it was unveiled May 15. The firm is looking to build 321 homes on about 111 acres, set aside 20.6 acres for commercial use and donate 112 acres to the city as parkland.
The Pulte team used a video shot from a drone to give planners and the audience an idea of where the homes, businesses and parkland would be situated on the 245-acre parcel bordered by Treat and Squires roads and Route 43.
Planning panelists Sarah Gilmore and Pete French were among those expressing concern about density, along with Council reps Harold Hatridge, Jim Vaca, Scott Wolf and Amy McDougald, who were in the audience.
The 321 proposed homes on the overall 245 acres results in a density of 1.4 units per acre, which conforms with the mixed-use district’s allowable 2.5 units per acre, because density is calculated on the overall acreage.
"The proposed 60- and 80-by-140-foot lots are not much bigger than those in the Geauga Lake neighborhood, and many of those were built 80 years ago as cottages," said Vaca. "The homes are bigger now than they were back then.
"Also, I think this plan is a slap in the face to the residents who voted to rezone the land for mixed use. I don’t think they want to see so many homes go in there."
Hatridge said the proposed homes don’t look to him like Western Reserve style. He suggested Pulte consider reducing the proposed park area to make the buildable lots bigger, thus reducing the density.
Gilmore said that rather than clearing a lot of trees along Treat Road, she would rather see as many trees as possible preserved to hide the development from people driving by.
"The housing layout just looks too crowded," she said.
McDougald said three-car garages are a popular feature of new homes today, but Pulte’s plans only call for up to two cars.
Resident Deb Conti said the proposed 20 feet between some homes is not the type of development Aurorans have come to expect, plus the lots are so small that owners couldn’t put play apparatus and other things on them.
"Except for the parkland, there’s just not much green space in the housing area," she said, adding the designated parkland might be problematic and a liability issue for the city because of wetlands and a quarry located there.
"Parts of the land have great natural attractiveness, and we are trying to make the parkland enjoyable for the general community rather than just the residents who live there," said O’Connor.
According to O’Connor, Pulte anticipates the project will be about a $110 million investment. Three styles of homes are proposed — 67 single-family units, 109 townhomes and 145 ranch-style homes. He said many of the units will be for "empty-nesters."
He said the neighborhood, when fully developed, would bring in about $2.1 million per year in real estate tax revenue, and the project would create about 400 jobs during construction.
O’Connor said Pulte has offered to buy the railroad right-of-way through the development area, but Norfolk Southern is not willing to sell it right now. He added that stretch is not part of FirstEnergy’s plans to erect transmission lines along the corridor.
Because much of the water from the development will drain into the Aurora branch of the Chagrin River, Planning-Zoning-Building Director Denise Januska said the city likely will require an environmental analysis from the Chagrin River Watershed Partners.
O’Connor said Pulte’s team will focus on plans for the commercial acreage and parkland at the planning commission’s June 19 meeting. He said the firm hopes City Council will approve the project by the end of August.
In other planning commission action, the panel OK’d a conditional zoning certificate for a private outdoor recreational facility for Norman and Becky Olszewski to operate a seasonal recreational farm at 1199 E. Garfield Road.
The property has operated a farmers’ market selling fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers, and offers food and refreshments for visitors. It operates roughly from May to October.
And finally, panelists approved preliminary and final site plans for a 3,500-square-foot addition to Demming Financial Services’ existing 1,564-square-foot building (former railroad depot) on New Hudson Road.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400, ext. 4189 or email@example.com.