Solon’s zoning amendment Issue 110 was defeated 7,965 (70.47 percent) to 3,338 (29.53 percent), according to final, unofficial results from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.
The proposed issue would have rezoned the more than 100 acres at 39350 Bainbridge Road in Solon’s Ward 3. BNH Enterprise Corp. in Cleveland Heights and its CEO, Yisrael Harris, led the drive behind the $200-million project, which would have resulted in the rezoned land classified as single-family residential to mixed-use district.
Issue 110 did not include approval of a site plan, but would have changed the land uses.
Alan Melamed, spokesperson for BNH and Harris, said Harris and BNH bought the property with the intent to develop it, which is still the goal. Melamed added he did not know if a lawsuit was planned, but he said the developer is evaluating options for the project. With its current zoning plan, it could be developed with 88 houses on 1-acre lots.
Solon Ward 3 Councilman Jeremy Zelwin and Solon Mayor Edward H. Kraus and other city officials opposed the issue. According to Solon’s charter, the issue needed to pass citywide and specifically in Solon’s Ward 3, where many neighbors, particularly those in the nearby Thornbury development, objected to the project. It was defeated in that ward, 1,373-391, according to final, unofficial results from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.
The proposed plans included single and double-family dwellings, a small specialty retail, a boutique spa hotel, a parking garage and a winery and vineyard, according to Melamed.
Bud Thomas, treasurer of The Residents for Reasonable Zoning political action committee and a Thornbury resident, said he wasn’t surprised by the results as the committee did a lot of grassroots groundwork, including canvassing the four weekends before the election and formed phone banks to call through the community. The results, he said, sent a message that Solon is united and “residential zoning should stay residential zoning.”
“Our objective was to protect reasonable rezoning and to protect the city’s master plan,” he said. “We believe the result of this election demonstrates that both of those are important to Solon. We hope Mr. Harris respects the will of the people and that he will work with Solon in finding the appropriate use for that beautiful piece of property that he owns.”
Zelwin said the issue failed in part from the approach the developer used to get the issue on the ballot.
The issue originally started as an initiative petition that gathered 870 signatures, more than the needed amount to be submitted to the city, according to a previous Cleveland Jewish News article. Solon city council then proceeded with it’s three reading rule of the petition Aug. 6 in accordance with the city’s charter. By doing so, the petition would have missed the Aug. 8 deadline to be added to the general election ballot.
Alternatively, council could have waived the three-readings rule and considered the measure as emergency legislation, thus allowing members to act on it at the Aug. 6 meeting, but that didn’t occur.
The Kerem Lake mixed-used district backers filed a lawsuit Aug. 9 with the Supreme Court of Ohio against the city of Solon and its officials for failing to act in time to approve an initiative petition. Ohio’s high court ruled Sept. 7 in favor of the backers and ordered the rezoning issue associated with the mixed-use development be placed on the November ballot.
Before he knew if the issue passed or failed, Kraus said he believed it would have had more support from the Solon community if it would’ve gone through the proper process where studies of the land could have been completed. By using an initiative petition, he said the project was rushed.
“For me, when it started out, I thought it was a great project but you can’t rush these projects,” he said before votes were final Nov. 6. “I think the community would have liked it because what was originally proposed -– things like a retailer, a winery, a spa or a hotel – are something that people love but you have to do the studies and it has to be done right. It could take a year or two. I think the biggest mistake that the developer made was not going through the public channels and trying to rush it before it was ready.”
In a statement, Harris said he was grateful for the support the issue did receive.
“We are gratified and thankful to the thousands of Solon voters who joined in our dream or engaged in the election process,” he said. “We are humbled by the outcome and still hope we can find a way to share our beautiful site with the entire Solon community.”
Michael C. Butz, Cleveland Jewish Publication Company lifestyles editor, contributed to this report.
Publisher’s Note: Kevin S. Adelstein, publisher and CEO of the Cleveland Jewish News and president of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, is a member of the Thornbury Homeowners Association board of directors.