NORTH RIDGEVILLE — The city’s Planning Commission voted in favor of recommending the rezoning of property on the northwest corner of Sugar Ridge and Bender roads for the second time in three months, despite pleas from residents who live in the area.
The commission voted, 3-1, in favor of the recommendation, which would rezone 26 of the 32 acres on the parcel from residential to light industrial. The remaining six acres would remain zoned as residential.
The property owner, Triple Seven LLC., previously asked the city to rezone the entire parcel to light industrial, for which the Planning Commission unanimously voted in favor. Before City Council discussed an ordinance that would officially change the zoning, Robert Graham withdrew the request.
On Tuesday night, he brought the new proposal before the Planning Commission.
“We see a need for offsetting the rapid growth in residential, and this is one of the ways to do that and keep taxes down,” Graham said. “At the same time, we want to respond to the request of the neighbors to make sure that residential part along Sugar Ridge Road stays residential, so we had withdrawn the original proposal.”
With the new proposal, Triple Seven would leave a six-acre strip along Sugar Ridge Road to create a residential buffer zone from the light industrial area.
“In the future, there will probably be some lots, and those lots will have brand new homes, so the people on the south side will have nice new homes across the street that may raise their present values,” he said. “We also plan to put evergreen trees along the back. Evergreen are green all year round, and that will be a nice buffer between the residential and the light industrial.”
Graham also said the businesses that would be in the new industrial area would be on small lots and wouldn’t be large, noisy manufacturing plants.
As they have over the past few months, the residents along Sugar Ridge Road voiced their disapproval of such a change.
Nearly two dozen community members attended the meeting, with several of them speaking to the commission about why they didn’t want to see the zoning changed.
The residents pointed toward the city’s master plan approved by City Council in 2009, saying it didn’t call for the zoning in the area to ever be changed from residential. Additionally, residents pointed out there are several industrial-zoned lots available throughout the city, so they don’t see a need for the rezoning on this particular parcel.
Some of the residents also said they didn’t feel the buffer that Graham was proposing was enough, and they didn’t want to see the look and rural feel of the neighborhood change.
Planning Commission and City Council member Bernadine Butkowski said she felt Graham was trying to offer a solution for everyone.
“When Mr. Graham was here before, this thing was approved. He didn’t have to come back and do any of this,” Butkowski said. “He didn’t have to come back and put that 266 feet of property across Sugar Ridge to be residential. I’ve never seen a builder do that since I’ve been on Council for 20 years. He’s trying to work to help everybody out. He apparently cares about our area.”
Before the commission voted on the whether to recommend the zoning change to Council, Assistant Law Director Toni Morgan reminded them of their responsibilities.
“A lot of the speakers that have spoken this evening acknowledged change is inevitable; I think everybody knows that,” Morgan said. “The Planning Commission certainly needs to look closely at their concerns that have a specific impact on their neighborhood, but the Planning Commission also needs to remember it represents the entire city. It has to look at this in the context of the community as a whole.”
Morgan also reminded the commission that it was only to vote on the rezoning matter in front of them and to not consider whether other land was available. She also said planners weren’t to decide based on the applicant’s business plan.
The lone vote of dissent was from James Smolik.
A public hearing on the zoning change request has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 16 in Council Chambers.