ELYRIA — City Council will vote Monday on the $4.3 million proposal to build a connector road from Chestnut Commons Drive to East Broad Street to alleviate traffic congestion at Chestnut Ridge Road and Chestnut Commons Drive.
Council’s Community Development Committee on Monday approved sending the plan to full Council, though some residents and businesspeople in the area expressed concerns that it might drive increased traffic through the intersection of East Broad Street and state Route 57.
The plan, announced late last week, would build the connector road across 60 acres of property owned by DBR Commercial Realty and Walmart, which is just south of the proposed road. The road would cut to the west of Walmart and then north along an easement granted by DBR, ending in a roundabout at the intersection of East Broad Street and Ternes Lane.
The project is expected to reduce traffic at Chestnut Ridge Road and Chestnut Commons Drive by 20 percent, city officials said.
Mayor Holly Brinda explained to Council members that a tax increment financing, or TIF district, will help pay back the short-term notes the city takes out to finance the project. The short-term debt will be repaid with money collected from the increased assessed value of the properties being improved.
“This is not an additional tax on businesses or residents,” Brinda said. “We think this is a good solution. Not the total solution, but the most cost-effective to begin.”
The Elyria Board of Education still would need to approve the TIF, as the way the project is planned could siphon off property tax money typically collected by the schools.
The connector road also will improve safety forces’ response times to businesses in Chestnut Commons and encourage future investment, she said. Construction should start with the roundabout at the northern end and proceed south while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works on mitigating damage to wetlands adjacent to Walmart.
More than $750,000 has been set aside to help prevent damage to the wetlands, Brinda said. The city also has a utilities easement under the DBR property because that is where sanitary sewers and water utilities serving Chestnut Commons were buried before Walmart and its commercial neighbors were built, she said.
Council members said they were excited to see the project move forward.
“For those like me who shop at Chestnut Commons, this has been a long time coming,” Councilwoman Donna Mitchell, D-6th Ward, said.
“Although I admit: Roundabouts make me nervous,” she said with a laugh.
City Engineer John Schneider said roundabouts have been used in Europe for many years to help reduce crashes, reduce the severity of crashes and prevent fatalities because they slow traffic entering the traffic pattern, forcing it to yield instead of stopping at a light.
“It really moves traffic well,” he said, adding that the 150-foot diameter roundabout should easily handle truck traffic coming off Ternes Lane. “The design is about controlling speed in and out.”
In response to a question by Councilman Jack Cerra, D-7th Ward, Schneider replied that the intersection of Route 57 and East Broad Street will need additional improvements from South Abbe Road to the North Ridgeville border due to the increased traffic the connector road will create.
That issue was factored into the study that led to the current plan, Brinda said in response to questions posed by both Cerra and resident Kenny Oswald Jr.
Oswald, who won the Democratic primary for the Ward 4 Council seat in May and is uncontested in November’s general election, said the 20 percent of traffic that will no longer clog Chestnut Ridge Road will instead filter onto East Broad Street.
“I see having this same meeting in two to three years,” he said.
Additional traffic-calming construction could occur once the 200-unit Four Seasons at Chestnut Ridge, 55-and-older development by K. Hovnanian Homes is fully occupied. A grand opening for that development is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, with a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m.
A mixed-use development also is in the works for an area south of Chestnut Ridge Road, though what it will consist of has yet to be announced publicly.
In other business, the committee also sent for approval by full Council a request by Elyria Partners LLC to rezone five parcels of its property to construct a GetGo cafe and fuel service facility next to Midway Mall.
The plan, which was approved by the Elyria Planning Commission on June 4, calls for a 5,500 square-foot convenience store and eight gas pumps on the northeast corner of Route 57 and Midway Boulevard, across from Red Lobster.
Bruce Rinker, an attorney with the firm Mansour Gavin in Cleveland and a representative of Elyria Partners LLC, said the location along Route 57/Lorain Boulevard is in a “sweet spot between Midway (Boulevard) and 49th Street.”
The entrance will be on Midway Boulevard as far back from the intersection as possible, with the convenience store entrance facing Route 57, Rinker said.
Joseph Tassone, director of engineering on the project, said in response to a question from Councilman Jack Baird, R-at large, said the GetGo station and convenience store at 209 East Bridge Street “may or may not stay” at that location, depending on sales.
Brinda said the placement of the planned station was made possible with the demolition of the 49th Street Bridge.
“We welcome the investment by GetGo, and there will be more investment” where the bridge used to be, she said.
Finally, during their meeting Monday, Finance Committee members sent to full Council a proposed $2.3 million incentive package for job creation and expansion at Crane Aerospace/Lear Romec on South Abbe Road.
The incentive package includes Enterprise Zone tax savings, potential income tax rebates for new jobs, a free environmental assessment, building permit fee discounts, workforce attraction and retention resources and site preparation for future expansion.
The incentives are contingent on Crane Aerospace/Lear Romec completing a proposed $4.75 million expansion at its facility at 241 S. Abbe Road or a proposed $8.5 million expansion across the street and the city seeing a net gain of at least 34 manufacturing jobs.
Council will have a final vote on the proposal at its meeting Monday.
“It’s another step in the right direction” that Crane Aerospace/Lear Romec is planning on staying in Elyria and expanding, said Councilman Vic Stewart, D-at large.