NORTHFIELD CENTER — A dozen new homes are likely to be built by Northfield Center Development Inc. in the Skyhaven III subdivision after township trustees approved a consent decree relating to zoning of the property Sept. 3.

However, township legal counsel Todd Raskin said whether the housing project goes forward is subject to the Summit County engineer’s office determining that the developer’s stormwater management plan effectively can be implemented.

The consent decree will become effective upon approval by the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.

Trustees Paul Buescher and Rich Reville voted in favor of the decree, while Trustee Russ Mazzola abstained "upon the advice of our legal counsel." The rear of Mazzola’s Skyhaven Road property abuts the parcel in question.

The developer plans to build 12 homes on 6 or 7 acres of a 16-acre parcel, with the remaining land – some of which is wetlands - turned over to the township as green space. The homes will occupy lots of at least 16,000 square feet.

The 16 acres is situated between Skyhaven Road and Route 8 and North Oakmont Drive and East Oakmont Way.

The developer’s legal counsel, Mark Porter, said the developer has already signed off on the agreement, and approval by both parties will result in the developer’s lawsuit against the township being dismissed. That case was filed in Summit County Common Pleas Court in January.

In 2018, Northfield Center Development applied for a variance from the township’s board of zoning appeals that would have allowed construction of more than a dozen homes on the property for residents age 55 and older on lots smaller than the required 25,000-square-foot minimum in the R-1 residential zoning district.

The developer’s plan was to build the homes on lots ranging between 14,000 and 18,500 square feet, but the zoning board ruled the requested variance was too large and turned it down.

In its application for the variance, Northfield Center Development stated after the land was purchased in 1990, the township reduced the minimum lot size to 20,000 square feet and the original plan for Phase 3 was for 22 lots.

Then in 2001, the township increased the minimum back to 25,000 square feet, and according to BZA minutes, the township later rejected a proposal for the township to purchase the property.

Northfield Center Development said in its variance application that larger lots would mean fewer homes, making the property not economically viable for development, and argued in its legal complaint that would make the zoning board’s action unconstitutional.

Four residents spoke during a public hearing prior to trustees taking action, and their main concerns were reducing the lot sizes and stormwater management.

But Raskin explained the consent decree is the best way for the township to have some control over development of Skyhaven III, and will allow the Summit County engineer to determine whether the developer’s stormwater management plan will allow the property to be developed without creating water runoff problems.

While saying that he understands the concerns about smaller lots and flooding problems, resident Marc Pepera said the township acquiring green space "is a benefit."

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