Voters clear way for development of former Highland School Property

by Dan Holland

Issue 24, which asked Brecksville residents whether to rezone the former Highland Elementary School property from a C-F Community Facilities District to R-20 Single Family Residential, passed by a nearly 61% approval margin at the polls on Nov. 8. Per the city charter, the rezoning issue required at least a 55% voter approval rate.

The previous zoning designation for the 21-acre parcel allowed for public-use facilities only. The new designation allows for the development of single-family homes on minimum lot sizes of 20,000 square-feet – approximately one-half acre – in line with surrounding residential neighborhoods.

A provision in the rezoning issue also allows for “Conditional Use of C-F Communities Facilities Classes C and D only” should the city decide to purchase the property for park or other recreational uses.

The older elementary schools are no longer needed, as the Brecksville-Broadview Heights City School District closed and consolidated Chippewa, Hilton and Highland Elementary schools into the new BBH Elementary School that opened in September on the Blossom Hill property.

An agreement for the city of Brecksville to market and sell both the Highland and former Chippewa Elementary School properties on behalf of the district was agreed to earlier this year. Julie Billiart Schools, which specializes in educating children with learning disabilities, purchased the Chippewa property on Wiese Road for $1.3 million in late September and expects to open for classes fall quarter 2024.

“If we as a district wanted to sell the properties outright, we would have to put them up for auction,” said Board of Education President Mark Dosen. “By leveraging our relationship with the city of Brecksville, it offers both the city and the district some level of control over who ends up with the property because it is not a straight auction process where we would be obligated to take the highest bid.”

The Highland property was appraised at $1.4 million. Under the agreement, if either property is sold for an amount below the appraised value, all proceeds go to the school district. If sold for above the appraised amount, the first $250,000 would go straight to the enterprise fund that supports the Blossom Hill property, which includes the new elementary school and attached fieldhouse. Any amount beyond the $250,000 mark would be split evenly between the city and school district.

Since no qualified bids came in on the Highland property, which reflected the combined building and land value, the minimum bid was lowered to $735,000 to reflect the land value only.

“Housing developers had interest in the property, but the zoning was a problem as well as the cost of taking the building down,” said Dosen. “This is a second chance at going back out and saying the property is now zoned residential, and the floor has been lowered to the value of the land to try to encourage more proposals for the property.”

“The voters confirmed that our zoning recommendation was accurate,” said Brecksville City Council President Laura Redinger. ”We passed it on city council, and we passed it along to the voters. We felt that would create specific uses for both residential use or recreation and parks, and that would help attract buyers who are interested in those types of developments. It was very specific to try to attract the right kind of buyer for the property that would be consistent with the surrounding neighborhood.”

“The district was looking for a win-win situation,” Dosen added. “We didn’t want to have these properties developed in a way that is not in line with the city’s wishes. By having the city market the properties for us, it allowed us to both have a stake in this to make sure that we end up with something that’s good for the community.”

The former Hilton Elementary School property was not included in the development agreement, as it is part of a larger campus, according to Dosen.

“The board has not yet rendered a decision on what is going to happen with the Hilton property, as that land is part of the broader district campus with the high school, middle school and athletic fields.” ∞