Zoning approved for part of Valor Acres after residents have their say

by Melissa Martin

Jan. 26 planning commission meeting

After residents voiced concerns at a Jan. 26 public hearing, the Brecksville Planning Commission unanimously approved mixed-use zoning for the Valor Acres development.

Several residents objected to the appearance of five-story buildings and the possibility of lights shining into nearby residences.

Developers say the ground floors of buildings in the mixed-use area will contain restaurants, pharmacies, barber shops and salons plus other shops and businesses, as originally proposed. The upper stories of these structures, located near the intersection of Brecksville and Miller roads, will be designated as office space or housing.

A boutique-style grocery store, as well as a hotel, are also planned for the complex, said Kevin DiGeronimo, principal for DiGeronimo Development LLC, which is building the development.

DiGeronimo said conceptual plans for this phase of the project call for approximately 75,000 square feet of retail, not including a planned grocery store; about 240,000 square feet of office space; and about 200,000 square feet for 175-250 residences.

“We intend for this to be high-end, four-sided architecture, that’s interactive and has a true mixed-use feel,” he said.

DiGeronimo said the first structure constructed for this part of the project will be a five-story office building to house the headquarters of DiGeronimo Development. In addition to corporate offices, the ground floor will feature restaurant and/or retail areas, along with common areas and a covered parking area.

DiGeronimo assured commission members that all buildings erected in the district will be constructed of the highest-quality materials

Several residents questioned the development’s look and feel, including one resident who asked if the project would be similar in character to Pinecrest Village in Orange, which DiGeronimo co-developed.

DiGeronimo said Pinecrest Village earned national accolades, which he said is “hard to do’’ in the Cleveland area. He added that unlike Valor Acres, Pinecrest Village is geared toward large retail.

“We want what I call true balance here,” DiGeronimo told the planning commission, noting that Valor Acres is roughly one-third the size of Pinecrest Village and will cater to the business crowd.

“This is meant to be a vibrant, active area and we preach flexibility and balance because we want to keep it viable,” he said.

Resident Nancy Woelfel told the planning commission she believes the business district and its proposed five-story buildings are out of character for Brecksville.

“I think the size of these buildings has to come down,” she said.

Her husband, John, said he hopes the complex will be pedestrian friendly.

“One of my biggest complaints about Pinecrest is that it is about as pedestrian friendly as a railroad track,” he said.

Walkability and connectivity, DiGeronimo said, remain two of his firm’s highest priorities.

A lengthy discussion

For more than three hours following the public hearing, members of the planning commission debated how zoning laws applied to Valor Acres. Chair Dominic Sciria and Councilman Brian Stucky were among those who shared concerns about the height of the proposed buildings.

Commission members also questioned whether approving mixed-use zoning for retail elements now would force the city to surrender its rights to any further say in aesthetics and other concerns.

“We’re just buying into a pretty picture right now,” Sciria said of renderings DiGeronimo presented in a video.

Monica Bartkiewicz, Brecksville’s director of planning and community development, told the commission that DiGeronimo will be required to obtain commission approval for each building in the mixed-use section. Consequently, the commission will retain its right to reject building proposals for various reasons, including height.

As part of the conditional zoning approval process, planning commission members agreed that DiGeronimo will have to wait at least 30 days before clearing and grading the area can begin.

The commission has scheduled a public hearing to address clearing the property, the mixed-use roadway grid and the first building proposed for the mixed-use site on Thursday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. ∞