Homes for adults with intellectual disabilities could be built if certain conditions are met, says Pepper Pike planner


PEPPER PIKE, Ohio — In a special Planning Commission meeting held Thursday (June 17), City Planner George Smerigan detailed aspects of a variance request that, if approved, would allow 25 dwelling units to be built on property owned by the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland.

During that meeting, Smerigan, summarized a report that spoke of conditions that would have to be met to allow for the variance. The Planning Commission did not take action on the matter at the conclusion of the more than two-hand-a-half-hour online meeting. Medina Creative Housing is seeking to build the 25 housing units within 10 new buildings. The homes would be occupied by adults with intellectual disabilities and would be built on a portion of the 42 acres owned by the the Ursuline Sisters fronting the north side of Fairmount Boulevard.

The property is zoned U-2 for institutional use, a zoning classification the city recently updated. The new code permits on U-2 sites public or private day schools, libraries, places of worship, clubhouses, community centers and city of Pepper Pike municipal facilities. The new code does not allow for apartments or dwellings.

The new code does allow for those with other proposed uses to ask the Planning Commission for a variance. The request to extend the existing variance by Medina Creative Living and the Ursuline Sisters is a request to allow not only for the housing of up to 68 nuns at Merici Crossings, which opened in 2019 on a portion of the 42-acre parcel, but also the 25 special needs adults.

Meanwhile, as Smerigan noted in his report, parties living near the property have testified at two prior public hearings on the subject that the 25-unit development could have an adverse impact on their property values, could disturb nearby wetlands, impact drainage, affect a nearby power line easement, change the character of the neighborhood, and increase the area’s density.

At the conclusion of his report, Smerigan stated that the extension of the existing nonconforming institutional housing use granted the Ursuline Sisters for Merici Crossings could be approved by the Planning Commission if certain stipulations were met. One stipulation would limit the 25 units to only adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who would line in a single-family, attached configuration. Another requires that the ground coverage of the buildings, parking and improvements to the site not exceed 4.62 acres.

Other conditions were:

— That the extension maintains a 25-foot minimum setback from Fairmount Boulevard; a setback of 300 feet from the homes on Windy Hill Drive to the west; a setback of 50 feet from Ursuline College to the east; and 650 feet at the rear setback line, an abutting site zoned for townhomes.

— That the extension and current nonconforming use remain on the 42-acre parcel, and not be subdivided so as to increase the net density or ground coverage of the nonconforming uses.

— That a site development plan for the extension be submitted and approved.

— And that, upon completion of the extension, the entire property meets the city’s requirement of leaving 30 percent of the property as vacant space.

A statement released a day after the meeting by Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland President Sister Ritamary Welsh related that the Ursulines have carefully reviewed Smerigan’s opinion and plan to continue discussions on the matter.

“The variance was requested because the (Medina Creative Living) project would continue the historic residential use of the property, and its use for mission-based activities,” the statement read. “Even though the new language in the city’s code for U‑2 properties does not allow for residential use, the Ursuline Sisters have lived on the property for more than 60 years. Given the community’s stated support for this type of housing within the city, a variance is appropriate to satisfy both the need and the location for this project.”

The statement noted that, after hearing’s Smerigan’s conditions, the Ursulines and their attorney, John Slagter, believe Smerigan’s conditions should be addressed during the site plan approval phase of the project, rather than during this, the hearing for approval of a use variance.

“Of greatest concern are the setback requirements and conditions that would limit later development on other parcels of the property,” the Ursuline’s release states. “While we do not currently have specific plans for the parcel where the former motherhouse stood, we have been very clear about our desire to develop this parcel in the future.”

A possible development plan could include townhouses.

“Our property is our congregation’s greatest asset, and is critical to the long-term care of our Sisters and the sustainability of our mission. Just as homeowners consider an eventual sale of their property in their financial plans, we think it prudent and responsible to preserve our options as a way of fulfilling our obligation to care for each of our 120-plus Sisters as they age.

“We will continue to review the opinion and work with the city to determine an appropriate path forward.”

The Ursulines plan to own two of the 25 dwellings for use by those who could not afford such a dwelling. This would allow the Ursulines to continue to have a stake in the development and to further their mission.

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