Cuyahoga Falls City Council rezones land for mixed-use plan on Wyoga Lake Road
Project will have '$25.5 million economic impact,' city official says; Plans call for about 150 apartment units, four office/commercial buildings
CUYAHOGA FALLS — One step toward the potential construction of a mixed-use development on Wyoga Lake Road has occurred.
City Council on Feb. 8 unanimously approved rezoning nearly 37 acres at 4344 and 4356 Wyoga Lake Road where Princeton Crossroads Investments would like to build four office/commercial buildings on at least 10 of the acres and about 150 apartment units behind the office structures.
With council's approval, the land has been rezoned from E-1 Employment District — which allows industrial uses, service/warehousing uses, office buildings, and some limited retail businesses — to MU3 Sub-Urban Center, which allows retail, office and some service uses, as well as attached single-family and multi-family uses.
A construction debris site and storage yard sit on the properties now. The parcels are just south of Walsh Jesuit High School on the west side of Wyoga Lake Road.
Princeton Crossroads Investments' representatives are Greg Modic of Petros Homes and Danny Karam of Karam Companies.
As it's envisioned, the project "would result in a $25.5 million economic impact for our city," said Community Development Director Diana Colavecchio.
The project will create 185 temporary construction jobs with $3.7 million in payroll and six permanent jobs associated with the management of the apartment complex. The future development of the commercial portion of the land could create another 102 jobs, according to Colavecchio.
Modic said an initial plan for detached single family houses was brought forward more than a year ago. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, he said his team took a step back to figure out how to recast the project and eventually proposed the mixed-use concept.
"I think it was a great opportunity to create the mechanism that will allow jobs to be created here on the office and commercial and industrial portion on the front [of the property]," said Modic.
Council hosted a public hearing on the rezoning proposal Feb. 1.
Resident Tom Sullivan objected to the rezoning in a submitted letter that was read during the public hearing by Council President Mike Brillhart (D-5).
"Continu[ing] to convert employment zones to residential is not helping our bottom line," wrote Sullivan. "By allowing this, you are setting a dangerous precedent."
Sullivan's letter was the only opposition expressed by a resident during the public hearing.
Planning Director Fred Guerra said the city was trying to create a "win-win situation" with both "job creation and some housing on the site," and emphasized that the rezoning had to include a "job component."
Guerra said the land has been zoned E-1 for about 15 years, but no development has occurred.
Modic said his firm provided a financial analysis for the apartment building that shows "it is not a drain on the city. We'll have private roads, we'll take care of the roads, street plowing, maintenance, replacement, repairs [and] trash pick-up."
He added there will be on-site managers to field calls from residents, and his firm will be responsible for maintenance of the apartment building and grounds.
The planning commission on Dec. 15, 2020, recommended approving the rezoning and stipulated that the site have a maximum of 150 residential units and at least 25 percent or 10 acres for a commercial/office development. The commission also recommended that the city: create a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district for the site and set aside TIF money to develop the commercial/office area; and generate a master redevelopment for Wyoga Lake Road using TIF proceeds.
"The idea is, that if we're going to go with this rezoning, we would also create a small master plan to try to encourage the development of vacant parcels in this area," said Guerra.
Colavecchio told council Feb. 1 that the administration was not yet ready to say that it would definitely implement a TIF.
"There's a greater need, perhaps, for the TIF funds, if we do a TIF, to be earmarked and used for improving traffic flow in this corridor," said Colavecchio.
She explained that the corridor eyed for traffic flow improvement includes both the potential mixed-use development on Wyoga Lake Road and a project called the Ledges at Pine Ridge, 5008 State Road. A preliminary site plan for the Ledges project was also discussed by council on Feb. 1. There are residents near that planned development who have concerns about traffic issues, according to Colavecchio.
She said the city is considering the possibility of conducting a traffic study to determine whether improvements are needed and then looking at using TIF money to pay for those upgrades. Colavecchio said the developer presented a cost estimate for the traffic study and city officials are working on determining how they will contribute to those expenses.
Council members Susan Spinner (D-2) and Frank Stams (D-8) praised Colavecchio for her approach in determining whether a TIF would be done.
Hidden Lake Lane resident Marvin Montgomery said he was "glad to hear" about the potential traffic study. He noted he felt the speed limit of 45 mph needed to be assessed and added there had recently been a crash at Hidden Lake Lane and State Road.
"I'd say we got either a near-miss or an accident every month there," said Montgomery.
The developer would still need to have planning commission and city council approve both preliminary and final subdivision plans for the project, said Guerra. He added a site plan would likely need to be approved for the commercial area.
Colavecchio said the original plan that was brought to the planning commission was for 220 apartment units, but no industrial or retail development. She said the commission rejected the proposal because they felt it was too dense and it "bothered" them that the land use would go directly from industrial to residential.
The commission, Colavecchio said, felt the revised proposal of a maximum of 150 apartment units and at least 10 acres for future commercial development "was a good compromise."
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.