Northfield Center -- The township is asking the Summit County Prosecutor's Office for a ruling on whether its zoning board of appeals can grant a variance to allow a planned unit development on 16 acres of land when the township zoning code requires at least 25 acres.
The opinion was requested by Northfield Center Development Inc. President Joe Salemi, who said his company wants to complete the third phase of its Skyhaven subdivision on the east side of Olde Eight Road south of Highland Road.
The area includes Skyhaven Road, Ledgemont Road, North Oakmont Road and East Oakmont Way. Approval of a variance would allow the firm to build 15 to 16 homes on smaller lots than the code normally requires, provided 20 percent to 30 percent of the property is preserved as green space, said Zoning Inspector Don Saunders.
If the variance is allowed, the zoning commission would approve the final development plan.
Under the land's current R-1 zoning, lots must be at least 25,000 square feet, which Saunders said means only a handful of homes could be built on the land instead of the 15 Northfield Center Development wants to build.
The property's zoning when the first two subdivision phases were built more than 10 years ago allowed 20,000-square-foot lots, Saunders said. Since then, the township changed R-1 zoning to require larger lot sizes.
Salemi said Dec. 7 that under the land's current zoning, it would not be economical to build, as the number of homes would not cover the cost of extending a road and sewers onto the property.
He said economic conditions and uncertainty about an easement the state required for the conversion of Route 8 into a limited access highway prevented him from moving forward with the third phase in the early 2000s. Ultimately, the state took about one acre of the property, he said.
Trustee Paul Buescher said the decision to seek a prosecutor's opinion on the variance was made at the Trustees' Dec. 3 meeting. Buescher said Salemi and nearly 50 residents of the Skyhaven subdivision asked Trustees to consider purchasing the property for use as a park.
"It was explained to the residents that the $225,000 to $250,000 price tag was not in the budget and that it was not a fair use of taxpayer dollars to stop a private development," Buescher said in a Dec. 4 email to township residents. "When asked for options, Mr. Salemi said that he preferred selling the land to the township but if that was not possible then he would like the zoning code to be changed to allow smaller lot sizes for his planned development."
Saunders said that if the prosecutor determines the zoning board can't grant the variances, the township's next step would be to ask the zoning commission to consider ways it may be able to change township zoning in a way that would make development possible.