TALLMADGE —The centuries-old, 100-plus acre property known as the Ripley Farm is again proposed for development at a zoning designation never yet used in the city: R-6.

However, varying interpretations of what R-6 zoning means prompted discussion when planners considered the request Oct. 5. Tallmadge City Council is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on the matter on Oct. 25.

The property in question consists of three parcels: a 102-acre parcel at 1229 East Ave.; a 1.24-acre parcel at 1241 East Ave.; and a 0.4-acre parcel at 1223 East Ave. The farm is situated in an R-2 Residential District, where the city’s zoning code stipulates a minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet or two lots per acre. The applicant, the McKinley Development Company LTD, seeks a rezoning to R-6 Residential Open Space Planned Development District for the parcels.

"The R-6 provides a means to develop single-family housing in a way that provides greater flexibility in the land use arrangement of the site," according to Rita Weinberg, the city’s planning director/economic developer.

"In some ways," she said, "it is more flexible than the standard subdivision regulations and provides a means to preserve open space and unique and sensitive environmental features."

Rich Costin, a representative of McKinley Development, said what’s proposed is a 208-lot single-family subdivision lined with sidewalks and trees which would be known as Tallmadge Reserve. There would be a range of lot sizes from one-sixth to just over half an acre, according to Costin, which he said reflects a continuing market trend for smaller single-family home lots. He said the project would include the creation of an internal trail and walking loop of more than 1 mile. 

"Although there can be many visions for an open space," Costin said, "we have found repeatedly that a walking trail with a few benches is by far the most used and desired in our projects." Other amenities, if not located at front entrances, landmarks and focal points, tend not to be used and become burdensome to homeowners associations over time, according to Costin. The development is anticipated to rise in phases over five to 10 years, based on market design.

"When I look at your plan, I see a subdivision. I don’t see an open concept," Planning Commission Chairman Gerald Taylor said. While noting there are 36 acres designated as open space, Taylor said that land is confined to the back of the development with the proposed homes compacted in the front. Taylor said he thinks there should be shared green spaces and trails interspersed throughout the development.

"We want something more creative and I don’t think we’re getting it from this layout," Taylor said.

Planning Commission member Patrick Larson said he agreed with Taylor. The original intent of the R-6 zoning designation, Larson said, was to creatively address a challenging piece of property. While the 36 acres may fulfill an open space requirement, Larson questioned why no amenities were being proposed there. 

"I think the intent of the R-6 was to fulfill the demand for these small lots, but spread them out, open it up a little bit, and not have just people after people after people and then we’ve got 36 acres in the back that will never be touched and there’s probably nothing back there that will ever be able to be used by any of the residents of this project — it’ll just be woods." Larson said he hoped to see more amenities creatively incorporated into the project, such as more walking trails throughout.

Costin described the site as being "very challenging," given its narrowness and the presence of buried gas lines and wetlands. Bill Lemon, one of the proposal’s developers, said walking trails were intentionally kept away from the edges of people’s lawns and from between lots, based on his past development experience. Lemon requested the Planning Commission table the proposal until next month so it may be tweaked, incorporating input from the planners.

"We want to work with you and be part of the Tallmadge community," Lemon said.

The planning commission’s newest member, Kevin Heilmeier, suggested a work session with the administration on the interpretation of R-6.

The Tallmadge Police Department has raised concerns about potential traffic problems associated with the development. The fire department and economic development department offered no comment on the proposal before the planning commission.

Earlier this year, an applicant withdrew a proposal for the farm after city officials advised them securing a rezoning which would have allowed a higher density in terms of the construction of single-family homes was unlikely.

Email: ewalsh@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9419

Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC