By Kevin Kelley
The last major vote clearing the way for a controversial housing development in the Coffinberry Neighborhood is scheduled for Monday night.
City Council is expected to approve the Thomas Lane subdivision ordinance which will allow Garland New Homes to build 18 houses on the property where Coffinberry School once stood.
The controversy surrounds the amount of green space in the development. Some Coffinberry residents have complained that no land was set aside for public green space as city and school board leaders had suggested would happen before a 2005 rezoning vote.
Following a public uproar among some Coffinberry residents, Garland New Homes agreed to donate a 12,000-square-foot lot to the city for a park or playground. But some residents are still upset because that’s considerably less than the acre of green space shown in a 2005 master plan of the Coffinberry development cited by city leaders before the rezoning vote. Officials in the administration of Mayor Eileen Patton later said the 2005 master plan was merely a conceptual roadmap and not legally binding.
The ordinance to be voted on Monday had its first reading before council in February. But further action was delayed as the Ohio EPA reviewed the development’s stormwater treatment plan submitted by Garland New Homes. The concern was that a rejection by the EPA would mean that a stormwater basin would be placed on the Story Road parcel, displacing any park or playground.
But in recent weeks, the EPA approved Garland’s stormwater treatment plan, which consists of underground rainwater retention. That means the Story Road lot remains available for green space.
Ward 1 Councilman Brian McDonough, whose ward includes the Coffinberry neighborhood, said the addition of a new development is a positive for Fairview Park. But he plans to vote against the Thomas Lane ordinance.
“I’m disappointed at not having a full park or green space for the neighborhood,” McDonough told West Life.
At a 2005 public hearing on the rezoning of the Coffinberry School property, one of McDonough’s predecessors who represented Ward 1, Jamie Robatin, said the possibility of land being set aside for park use could “be further discussed at Planning and Design Commission meetings subsequent to passage of the rezoning issues,” according to West Life’s recording of the meeting.
Jim Kennedy, then the city’s director of development, said green space was in the city’s plans and that residents would have a voice in the process.
When the matter came before the Planning and Design Committee in May 2015, it rejected Garland’s plans over lack of green space by a 4-3 vote. Patton administration officials noted that the land had been sold by the Fairview Park City Schools to Garland without any deed restrictions. Commission Chairman Chet Sadonick, a Coffinberry neighborhood resident, lamented “broken promises” about green space.
The Planning and Design Commission’s rejection was appealed by Garland New Homes and unanimously overturned by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, whose members nonetheless criticized the deviation from the 2005 master plan.
“I really believe the Planning Commission got it right,” McDonough said, explaining his intention to vote against the ordinance.