What's Being Discussed
Based on the feedback we received, the updated ordinance:
Our Process So Far
Starting in Winter 2019, we have worked with the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission to fine-tune what would be allowed and what would be forbidden under the proposed zoning modifications.
There have been literally hundreds of details discussed, modified, and added; from height restrictions and density ratios, to the amount of required green space and the individual living space requirements. All of these discussions are part of the public record of the City and freely available in audio form to be reviewed on the City’s website.
In addition to hearing feedback from city officials, we hosted an open house in January to share information with residents and continue gathering feedback. We also held several small group community meetings and spoke to dozens and dozens of Pepper Pike residents to hear more resident feedback and to dig deeper into specific components of the project.
Our goal has always been to put forth a project which would allow this property to be used in a manner that is consistent with that which makes our community a wonderful place to live and work.
We have also reached out to land conservancies and identified strong support for partnering in preserving the Willey Creek Riparian Area and opening up the area for public use in a passive recreational setting.
After months of gathering and listening to resident feedback, Axiom submitted a revised ordinance and site plan to city administrators during the first week of June. Key changes to the plan include:
Removing multifamily residences;
Capping the amount of retail at 40,000 SF;
Significantly narrowing the permitted commercial uses;
Reducing the residential density from 5 units per acre to 4; and
Retaining the 50-50% split now between single family and townhomes, previously it was 50-50% between multifamily and single family plus townhomes.
The next step is to place the revised rezoning ordinance on the ballot by continuing the City Council public hearing process initiated last fall or circulating petitions to gather signatures.
Because of COVID-19 and concerns about providing a safe forum to hold a required public hearing in front of City Council, the only alternative to reach the November ballot is to gather resident signatures. Based on this ongoing uncertainty, Axiom is pursuing this option as a secondary route to the ballot. Notwithstanding, although pursuing both routes simultaneously, Axiom prefers to continue on the Council-led process.
The Stay Safe Ohio order issued April 30 by the Ohio Department of Health specifically permits the circulating of petitions. In addition, Pepper Pike Police Chief Mariola reviewed the petition circulator’s safety procedures, which are consistent with guidelines set forth by the Department of Health.
To place this issue on the November ballot via initiative petition, Axiom would need to collect 368 valid signatures from registered Pepper Pike voters representing 10% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, and complete the petition filing process with the City and Cuyahoga County Board of Elections by 4 PM on August 5.
How We Got Here
The 68-acre property was put on the market in early Spring 2016. The property was widely marketed both locally and throughout the Midwest for more than two years.
During that time the Beech Brook organization had countless discussions with would-be purchasers of the campus and entertained several serious offers for its purchase along a wide-range of potential uses.
Other potential uses that were explored included senior housing, a stand-alone apartment complex, a rental townhome district, and several drive-through food service providers.
At no time was a residential subdivision seriously considered or a park ever proposed by a potential buyer based on the negative effects those sales would have on both the Beech Brook organization itself and the Orange City Schools.
After that lengthy sales process and substantial discussions with the Beech Brook organization, Axiom was ultimately selected to purchase and redevelop the property as a means of funding Beech Brook’s endowment into the foreseeable future.
The property is currently zoned for U-2 “Public Building District," which means that the only possible users for the property that the Beech Brook organization can sell to without some sort of rezoning would have to conform to that zoning designation (e.g. a non-profit university, etc…).
Although Beech Brook could have sought out and sold the campus to one of these types of organizations, doing so would, among other things, provide no tax revenue to the Orange City School District or the City of Pepper Pike and dramatically increase traffic in an area that is already dealing with huge traffic issues.
The Beech Brook organization must sell the land to continue to fulfill its 167 year mission of caring for our community’s most vulnerable children; and to ensure the highest value for that property, a zoning change is needed. Without it, the organization will struggle to fully fund their services.
We are seeking to place a rezoning issue on the ballot, which creates the approval process that would be applied to any future redevelopment of the property and changes what types of uses would be permitted.
The new process would give the City a tremendous amount of oversight and control over what can be built on the property far above and beyond anything that is currently allowed under the existing zoning code. It would also allow a mixture of uses to be located on the property that could include a residential neighborhood, office space, performance and entertainment space, and a limited amount of retail and restaurants.
Under the proposed ordinance, any would-be developer of this property will be required to work with the City to design a project for the Beech Brook property. Nothing can be constructed on the property without the City’s approval. Without the proposed change, if Beech Brook finds a buyer and that development fits the current code, no matter the intended use, the amount of traffic it would create, or the effect it would have on the City of Pepper Pike or the Orange City Schools, the City would be severely restricted in its ability to stop it.
1) Any rezoning requires a vote of the people.
2) What we are talking about is change to the City’s zoning code that would create a lengthy, public process, with opportunity for citizen comment, by which any future project would need to follow in order to be approved by the City.
3) That process does not currently exist in the City’s zoning code and therefore the code needs to be changed in order to provide for any non-institutional uses at the property.
There are many misconceptions about what might take place if the rezoning is allowed. Let me clearly state the facts:
BASED ON THE FEEDBACK WE RECEIVED, THE UPDATED ORDINANCE:
Removes multifamily residences;
Caps the amount of retail at 40,000 SF;
Significantly narrows the permitted commercial uses; and
Reduces the residential density from 5 units per acre to 4.
GREEN SPACE AND RESIDENTIAL: The text of the proposed zoning ordinance requires that the majority of the property site be utilized as a residential neighborhood and protected green space. Study after study has shown what we as a community all already know—Many of our empty nester residents want to stay in Pepper Pike and there are currently very few places to for them go. These aging residents and new families are looking for a place to live that offers a vibrant, healthy, walkable lifestyle within this community. With the change in zoning, we will finally have an avenue where that can be explored. Further, this plan preserves nearly 1/3 of the total acreage, including the area surrounding Willey Creek as a public park.
RETAIL SPACE: Some of the biggest misconceptions are related to the retail that would be allowed within the proposed neighborhood. Comparing what would be permitted by the explicit wording of the current draft of this ordinance to Pinecrest or Legacy Village is completely inaccurate and intentionally misleading. The amount of space that could be dedicated to retail under this proposal is one tenth of Pinecrest. Pinecrest currently houses approximately 43 acres of mixed-use development space. Under the current draft of the proposed ordinance, only 16.14 acres would be a mixture of retail, office, and residential. The zoning would allow for small establishments such as a coffee shop, ice cream shop, a yoga studio, or a bookstore, along with some dining options that would serve as amenities for the office occupants and residents of the newly created community. The amount of this type of retail will be limited. The property is constrained based on its topography and size and is even further constrained by roadway and parking requirements.
Further, the proposed ordinance specifically forbids big box retail, "drive-thrus" or fast-food establishments of any kind.
OFFICE SPACE: The type of office space being considered is different than that which is currently offered in the City. It is a fact that our City has been approached by several organizations that would like to locate their businesses to Pepper Pike but have had to relocate elsewhere because the Class A office space that is available is fully occupied and anything else located in the City is either antiquated or does not fit their needs. Those are all missed opportunities.
We also are concerned about the traffic congestion at Lander Circle and connecting streets.
To that end, we hired AECOM, a global design and engineering firm that focuses on transformational infrastructure projects to conduct a traffic study. In a nutshell, they determined that to improve the situation, a more free-flowing roundabout is needed with fewer entrances and exits.
A more free flow design will eliminate all the stops and starts so that traffic is continuously moving at the same speed as cars that are approaching.
Also, eliminating some of the minor access points to the circle will not only help with the flow of traffic but also improve safety. This traffic plan would work in conjunction with a street that cuts through the property from Lander Road to Chagrin Boulevard.
The study shows that with these new traffic patterns in place, congestion will be reduced significantly.