Arguments generated around the rezoning request to establish the Kerem Lake mixed-use development are coming to a close as voters make their decision on the matter, appearing as Issue 110 on the Nov. 6 ballot. 

If approved, the proposed issue would rezone 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, are leading the drive for the $200-million project, which will rezone the land classified as single-family residential to multi-use district.  

The proposed plans for the land currently include single and double family dwellings, a small specialty retail, a boutique spa hotel, a parking garage and a winery and vineyard, said Alan Melamed, spokesperson for BNH Enterprise Corp., and Harris. The west side will remain undeveloped aside from walking trails. A nursing home and apartment building also were originally planned, but Melamed said they are no longer part of the proposed plan.  

Issue 110 does not include approval of a site plan but rather only changes the land uses on the property. If the rezoning does not pass, Melamed said Harris and BNH have plans to develop the property to its current zoning options and create a housing development.

“This is the plan that has been made public for months,” Melamed said. “I think it would be extremely difficult for any developer to just blow up the plan that were presented to the community. ... The other thing in term of the concerns people are raising is the language of the zoning in terms of what is being developed. It would be hard for there to be anything else. It specifically calls for the winery, it specifically calls for the boutique hotel.” 

Bud Thomas, treasurer of “The Residents for Reasonable Zoning” political committee and a Solon resident, is skeptical of the proposed plan as he hasn’t seen confirmation that the developers will adhere to the plan.

“None of what (Harris) is saying is relevant because he can say anything he wants,” Thomas said. “That’s our issue. We don’t know what’s going to go on this property, we really don’t because he can say anything he wants to and then change his mind the next day.”

Thomas, a partner at a local accounting firm, added that he hasn’t seen a study that would show the impact the project can have on the environment or traffic from the developers. 

“We don’t know the economic impact, we don’t know the environmental impact, we don’t know the transportation impact and we don’t know what stress it will put on the overall community,” Thomas said.

Melamed said there’s been environmental impact studies done and the traffic impact and economic impact is underway but the developers are not inclined to release the information because more studies will have to be done with the city if the issue passes. 

For the issue to succeed, it will not only have to pass citywide but also specifically in Solon’s Ward 3, where many neighbors, particularly those in the nearby Thornbury development, have objected to the project, said Ward 3 Councilman Jeremy Zelwin.

Zelwin said the city can only be involved in reviewing and commenting on the final site plans, which have been written by the developers.  

“If it passes, the zoning is what the zoning is,” said Zelwin, who has stated his opposition to the issue. “It’s important to note the developers cannot get around regulatory requirements of engineering and wetlands. The city would just have site plan review and approval but it’s per the developer’s code.”

If the zoning were to pass, a new chapter will be added to the city’s zoning code that the developers could govern any conflict with the city. 

“If there’s a conflict between their zoning and the city’s zoning, if there’s a disagreement because (the petition) is pretty vague, the developer decides the resolution,” Zelwin said. “It could happen in the site plan approval process, it could happen in the inspection process, it could happen in the interpretation of the code.”

He added there will be no direct cost to taxpayers.  

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 past stories by the Cleveland Jewish News. Solon city council then proceeded with it’s three reading rule of the petition in accordance with the city’s charter. However, by doing so, the petition would have missed the deadline to be added to the general election ballot.  

The Kerem Lake mixed-used district backers filed a lawsuit 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 in favor of the backers and ordered the rezoning issue associated with the mixed-use development be placed on the November ballot. 

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.

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