SALEM - The city Planning Commission approved recommending a zone change Monday to help create a zoning buffer for residents east of Southeast Boulevard on Oak Street, Tanglewood, Kennedy and Edgewood drives concerned about a proposed apartment development.
"This buffer zone was put in as a protection," Commission Chairman John Panezott said.
The commission had originally discussed the idea of rezoning about 14.3 acres of land currently zoned RA multiple family to RS-2 single family two weeks ago after agreeing to forward another rezoning issue to city council related to the apartment development.
The NRP Group of Cleveland announced plans for a three-phase housing development of apartments and single-family dwellings on vacant land bordering East Pershing Street, Butcher Road and Cunningham Road. The company has a purchase option on the 67.7-acre parcel owned by Gene Zilavy. NRP Group Developer Mary Hada requested the rezoning of 6.9-plus acres along Pershing Street from C-2 commercial to RA multiple family for Phase I of the project.
Plans call for an $18 million investment in the First Phase consisting of a 120-unit walk-up apartment complex located just south of East Pershing Street where it connects to Butcher Road. A Second Phase would consist of 176 walk-up apartments located at the corner of Butcher Road and Cunningham Road. The Third Phase was described as 50 single family lots, west of Cunningham Road and southwest of Butcher Road extending south to the corporation line.
Residents had expressed concern over having an apartment complex nearby, whether there were plans to extend their streets out to the apartment complex and whether it could devalue their properties. After agreeing to forward the first zoning change to council, the Planning Commission on its own agreed to study the idea of rezoning land 300 feet east of the deadends on those streets from residential multi-family to residential single-family as a means to protect the residents.
The final decision on both zoning issues will rest with Salem City Council. Council and the Planning Commission will hold a joint meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 18 regarding the zoning issues.
During the previous meeting, Hada said there was no plan to build on the wetlands to the west of the high tension wires near the deadend streets because of the topography of the land and the wetlands. There's a gradual 60-foot drop east of the deadend streets. There was also no plan to have the deadend streets extended. Both points were reiterated during Monday's meeting.
Kennedy Drive resident Mark Pietrzak questioned how the Planning Commission could approve a rezoning change without seeing a comprehensive plan for the entire parcel of nearly 70 acres, including the infrastructure needs for water and sewer and how streets would be connected.
He also said he thought they should rescind their previous decision to change the commercial zone to multiple family, asking that the commission study and evaluate how the building plan will affect existing neighborhoods and the city's ability to provide the infrastructure. He said there should be deed restrictions to protect the citizens and the neighborhoods.
City Planning and Zoning Officer Patrick Morrissey said the city has never required deed restrictions, with Mayor John Berlin adding that it's usually up to the property owner. Commission member Royal Schiller said it's not the essence of the Planning Commission to do the business of the property owner.
Morrissey, Panezott and commission member Barb Loudon all said there was no proposal asking for the deadend streets to be extended out. Pietrzak said the water lines need connected to the new development, saying he has a problem with the deadend water. He also said they should extend the sewer lines on the deadend streets to a lift station talked about for the property.
"This has nothing to do with the NRP project. They can't be forced to fix our infrastructure," Morrissey said.
Oak Street resident Tom Scahill pointed out that when he attended the previous meeting, there were no plans for developing anything west of the creek on the vacant land near the wetlands. He questioned the need to rezone the area to single family.
Both Panezott and Berlin tried to explain the idea of the buffer zone, noting that there's no plan to build anything in the zone. By changing the zoning, at least they're ensuring that nothing can be built there except for single family homes if someone decided to build something there.
"I don't hear anyone saying they're against progress in Salem. Let's just do it the right way," Kennedy Drive resident Russ Sutherin said.
He said he would like to see something in writing from NRP that nothing would be built in the buffer zone. He also asked that they put in extra buffers of trees or bushes.
Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who lives on Southeast Boulevard off of Edgewood and represents the Fourth Ward area affected by the potential development, said the residents would like to see the change from RA to RS-2 permanent, but Berlin said that wouldn't be fair to the current owner. After two years, if the plans fall through, both zoning areas will revert back to their original zoning as requested by the current owner.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org