Stow -- The city has been asked to consider preliminary proposals for an Allen Road assisted living facility and a Gilbert Road apartment complex.
Both proposals were study items during the planning commission's Sept. 26 meeting and therefore no vote was taken, but commission members said they were favorable to both.
Planning Director Rob Kurtz told the commission that currently, a preliminary plan would be to construct a 106-bed assisted living facility across Allen Road from Akron General Medical Center.
He said the property's I-2 industrial zoning does not allow assisted living facilities, an issue that could be rectified by amending the I-2 zoning to allow such facilities as a conditional use. Kurtz, however, recommended that the property instead be rezoned as I-1 industrial, with the codes amended to allow for assisted living facilities in those districts.
Kurtz said this would make the zoning consistent with nearby properties, including Akron General and the Northeast Ohio Eye Surgeons practice immediately to the south. Kurtz also said it would not be a good idea to allow assisted living facilities in I-2 districts because those districts allow for heavier industry than I-1.
"I'd be inclined to go I-1 just for future protections of I-2," said Commission Chairman Rich Sprungle.
Kurtz said the proposed development would bring comparable economic benefits in terms of jobs and increased property values.
"An assisted living facility has some of the benefits of an office or industrial facility," he said.
Thomas Finley, a partner in Beachwood-based Omni Senior Living, the property's developer, told the commission that the facility is an "exciting project," but his company is still doing market research and it may go through some tweaking. He said grading changes on the property offers challenges and could require a retaining wall at least 20 feet high on one side.
"There is a significant amount of engineering that still needs to be done," said Finley, adding that for now, he wants to gauge how much support the city would give.
"It seems to make sense to have the facility in that location," said Commission Vice Chairman David Kohlmeier.
"You've got an emergency room across the street," said Sprungle.
"And physical therapy," added Kohlmeier.
Kurtz said the apartment complex proposal is to construct seven apartment buildings containing a total of about 50 units and a common building on nearly 8 acres on the northwest corner of Gilbert Road and Gilbert Lane. Kurtz said the property's R-3 residential zoning allows multi-family dwellings, such as apartments, as a conditional use.
Michael Krause, vice president of Westerville, Ohio-based developer Woda Group, told the commission his company specializes in using certain tax credits to construct "affordable housing," which the company has done with 224 developments in 13 states.
"This is our bread and butter, this is what we do well," said Krause.
He said areas close to retail areas, such as Wal-Mart and Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse and other businesses including restaurants, near the site make it ideal for such a development.
"We really think it's a terrific location for multi-family housing," said Krause.
Kurtz said a potential issue is that the property may be too small for the number of apartments under city zoning codes, but a way around this could be for the city to "vacate" the short Gilbert Lane, which runs along the property's south side and ends just east of it, and turn it over to the development as perhaps a private drive. Kurtz said this would add land to the property and relieve the city of the responsibility of maintaining the road.
"If this development goes in, what would be the point of having Gilbert Lane?" asked Sprungle.
Property owner Paul Zuravel noted that proposed changes to the city's comprehensive plan, currently undergoing an extensive review, include increasing the density of residences on Gilbert Road, which includes Zuravel's nearby home.
"[The development] would be a good addition to the community," he said.
"It's an interesting proposal," said Sprungle. "Conceptually, I'd be OK with this."
"I think it's ideal for multi-family," said Kohlmeier.
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