WARREN - Critics of a proposed zone change that would allow construction of a four-story senior housing complex successfully challenged a recent public hearing. They said they were not properly notified where the 120-apartment complex would be located.
In addition, a complaint filed with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has stopped Clover Management Inc. - the company looking to build the complex at 907 North Road - from doing some preliminary site work because it failed to apply for proper permits and failed to establish a stormwater management plan.
Clover Management, which has senior apartment complexes in Pennsylvania and New York, is looking to build its first Ohio complex on the 8-acre property in Warren.
Theresa Chucksa, Jessica Hipple and Lindy Snyder are leading the fight against a zone change that would change the property at 907 North Road from a residential to a senior citizens multi-family housing zone. A developer plans to build a 120-unit, four-story apartment complex there. The three women and other neighbors have gathered about 120 signatures on a petition asking City Council not to change the zoning of the property. Tribune Chronicle photos / Raymond L. Smith
Jessica Hipple, one of the organizers of the group criticizing the project, questions whether the city has done its due diligence on the impact of the project on residents living on North Road between East Market and South Road.
Hipple helped organize a petition drive to stop the rezoning of 907 North Road. Her group has collected approximately 120 signatures protesting the zoning change from residential to senior citizen multi-family housing.
Under that designation, construction projects for seniors age 55 and older may be built.
The group last week sent out more than 500 fliers in neighborhoods around the property asking residents to pack a scheduled Nov. 14 City Council meeting. The goal is to make sure council members know area residents do not want the housing complex to be built there.
Hipple said they challenged the Oct. 24 public hearing because information sent to residents surrounding the property had 907 North River Road as the address for the project, instead of 907 North Road.
"People did not know it affected them,'' she said.
Councilman Vince Flask, D-5th Ward, at the law department's recommendation, has agreed to hold a second public hearing on the property's rezoning before the council's Nov. 28 meeting.
Joe and Emily Bauers, 899 North Road S.E., said they did not realize the proposed complex would be next door to them until Hipple knocked on their door and told them.
"Several weeks ago we received a letter from the city saying there was a zoning hearing for a project at 907 North River Road S.E.," Joe Bauers said. "We did not think anything about it because North River Road is five miles away."
Bauers is against the project.
"We purchased our house two years ago and we like the idea of our kids being able to play in our backyard without having to worry about them," he said. "Having a 120-apartment complex built behind our property will make it less safe."
The driveway for the complex would be on the south side of the Bauers' property.
Peggy Sapino, 4060 Longhill Drive S.E., expressed concerns about how adding 120 apartments to the area would affect traffic on what she considers an already overly congested North Road corridor.
"If there are more apartments built, there will be increased potential of vehicle collisions on North Road," Sapino said.
''The road was not built to handle any more cars. Any extra traffic would be too much for it. During the Christmas holiday season, it is already impossible to get on and off of it,'' she said.
Sapino also questions why the company did not consider other locations in the city or even the area.
"Why try to squeeze these high-end apartments in such a small place?'' she said. "What is the draw to this location? How will this benefit Warren?
Mary Fuller, 4063 Devon Drive, who belongs to the North Road Preservation Alliance that fought against an access lane to the Eastwood Mall several years ago, is concerned how increased paving and a retention pond put into the area would impact the wetlands already in the area.
"I think there will be environmental and wildlife issues," she said.
Joan P. Hall, 3824 Longhill Drive S.E., said she does not necessarily object to the idea of senior multi-family zoning, but says she does not want the construction project to go forward until some basic questions are answered about it.
"I want to see studies about the impact of traffic, wetlands and how it will impact the school," Hall said. "I want specifics to get out to residents."
Flask, who has been pushing the new zoning request through council , said he has heard the resident complaints both during the council's Oct. 24 public hearing and during a meeting he agreed to host for the residents in the council chambers on Nov. 1, which 35 to 40 people attended.
"I think that some of the concerns asked by residents may be legitimate and need to be looked at, but I believe many of their concerns were answered," Flask said. "As long as I have sufficient answers, I can support this project."
Flask said that questions about traffic count on North Road may be something that needs further study.
"We did not have an engineer at the meeting," Flask said. "If the city engineer does not see a problem, then I'm OK with it."
Flask said based on what he has heard, the biggest concern appear to be the apartments will become a place for low-income, subsidized residents.
Steve Sceranka, representing Clover Management Inc., did not respond to requests for interview for this story. However, Sceranka previously stated the apartments will be priced above the range that could be paid by public housing advocates.
However, critics suggest the company's efforts to limit low-income, subsidized residents in its apartments in New York were challenged in the courts.
"The residents appear to be fearful for area children and those who attend North Road Elementary School," Flask said. "They seem to be afraid of seniors gawking at the children all day. At least, that is how it came across to me."
Flask said the company has market rate complexes throughout Pennsylvania and New York areas.
"The oldest one is 15 years old and they continue to be sold at market rates," Flask said. "I'm comfortable with their history."
Responding to a complaint, the Ohio EPA inspected the property on Oct. 31 and found some preliminary work was being done, including some grading activities taking place that were impacting onsite wetlands.
Work was begun without the property owner obtaining a notice-of-intent application for the work at least 21 days prior.
"The general storm water permit requires that a storm water pollution prevention plan be developed for the site," according to Chris Moody, an environmental specialist at the Division of Surface Water.
A notice-of-violation letter sent to Mary Jane Kokrack, the trustee of the property, stating that a post-construction storm water management plan is required at all construction sites that disturb one acre or more so that the receiving stream's physical, chemical and biological characteristics are protected.
During the Oct. 31 inspection, Moody described rain falling and contaminated storm water was seen going from the disturbed areas into wetland areas.
The EPA is requiring written notification detailing corrective actions to violation being sent to it by Nov. 14. Failure to take corrective actions could result of fines up to $10,000 a day.
"We've been told the company does not plan to proceed with the project at this time," Mike Settles with the Ohio EPA said."It wants to address some zoning, construction and neighborhood concerns."