Community questions Concordia development plan

by Laura Bednar

Following resident complaints of little information coming from the city about the Concordia Lutheran Church property development plan, a group of over 40 community members gathered in early June to share information and determine unanswered questions. The property is located at Brecksville and Stone roads.

Stone Road residents Jeff Blumenthal and Pam Dengler ran the meeting, which was open to residents and city officials. Councilpersons John DiGeronimo and Dale Veverka were the only elected officials in attendance.

Blumenthal gave a timeline of the project thus far. In November 2022, a city council workshop was held, during which council voted 4-3 to purchase the property. This legislation was on first reading and noted there would be 60-day period for due diligence on the property.

In December 2022, Kurtz held a town hall meeting for residents, who were asked to write their questions on a notecard. The cards were read aloud by a city official and Kurtz answered them. “There was no follow-up or dialogue allowed,” said Blumenthal.

Earlier that month, council members and citizens walked the site during a council workshop. The purchase agreement was executed in February 2023. Blumenthal said the city had done enough due diligence to feel comfortable making the purchase, but that work still continues today.

In March of this year, council approved giving $15,000 each to developers Petros Homes and New Leaf to conduct further due diligence. The city will choose one of the companies for the project.

Dengler said each developer had a concept for the property that city officials shared with residents who specifically requested them. The concepts are not yet finalized.

“What the city envisions for the property is what I would call high-density,” said Dengler.

The Petros concept included 60 homes with a lot width of between 50 and 60 feet. The New Leaf concept also included 60 homes with an entire lot width of 55 feet.

According to the city’s codified ordinances, homes in a U-1 residential zoned area without a sanitary sewer must have an average minimum lot width of 125 feet and 100 feet for an area with sanitary sewers.

Dengler asked how the city planned to rectify that issue. This was among several concerns that came from audience members including:

• Impervious surface water runoff onto adjacent properties.

• Deforestation of the area.

• Gas well on the property.

• Wetland on the property.

• Price of the homes.

During the November 2022 council workshop, Kurtz said the homes would be at least $300,000. In a March 2024 issue of the “Independence Post,” an article stated the homes would start at $500,000.

Dengler noted the 2022 census, which had the median home value in Independence as $282,100. She said 16% of the housing stock in the city had a value of between $500,000 and $1 million and only 1% were over $1 million. This, she said, did not seem like a level playing field for residents to make a lateral move to downsize.

Residents were asked to add stickers to five poster boards under the categories about which they felt most strongly. The categories were: concern about the lack of regard for existing building codes, concern about water runoff from the development, in favor of no housing development and dedicating the property as a park, concern about the cost of homes and in favor of a new housing project on the former Independence Middle School property on Brecksville Road instead.

Each category had some interest, but based on sticker volume, the most popular choice was to scrap the development and keep the space as a park.

Residents Dan Sobotka and Carla LoConti both voiced their support of a park. Another resident said the property abuts the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and visitors could come to the city via Hemlock Trail, bringing in money through the city’s retail.

Blumenthal said Kurtz sent him an email stating his regrets for not being in attendance and planned to have a town hall before the end of June. ∞