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Grow west

Council considers concept for residential annexation 75 acres of houses, duplexes and four-plexes planned for Greazel property

SOLON– Another big residential subdivision is on Solon’s western horizon.
Developers representing the Grace Greazel Estate presented a preliminary annexation and rezoning concept for 116 acres just outside the city limits during a city council meeting Nov. 18.
As proposed, Trail Ridge Estates would include 107 single-family lots, 55 duplex lots and 13 four-plex lots– close to 270 living units– with space dedicated for public use as a dog park adjacent to the Hoover Nature Trail.
“I think this is really cool,” council member Lauren Whitehead said. “I love the dog park and I am really happy to see diverse housing options which we need in Solon, so thank you.”
The property, located west of Oakland Cemetery on Highway 382, surrounds a small farmstead owned by Tom Greazel on the south side, noted City Administrator Cami Rasmussen.
If the cemetery annexes into the city, she added, there are potential impacts for two other isolated residences just outside the city limits.
Concerns were also raised about traffic flow, dead-end streets and the aesthetics of the higher-density housing, but council members were generally receptive and forwarded the proposal to the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission for review.
Rasmussen explained the potential annexation and zoning request came to the city’s attention earlier this fall.
Meetings were held with Adam Hahn of the Watts Group and Brian Boelk of Axiom Consultants, she said.
“I think it’s a really dynamic project,” she noted.
Hahn, a resident of Solon, said the Watts Group has been working on the project for over a year. He pitched the subdivision as inclusive of multiple generations and income levels.
It was a conscious decision to provide housing stock for individuals or families just out of college looking for a first house with maybe their parents or grandparents further back in the subdivision, he said.
Alternately, he added, somebody looking to downsize could stay in the same subdivision and move into a zero-lot line, “and still be in that same community that they’ve always lived.”
Trail Ridge Estates will transition from townhouses to duplexes to larger single-family lots with three access points to the trail, Hahn said.
A possible dog park has been sited at the southern edge of the development where the trail does a hard 90-degree turn, he noted, accessible to the public from the Solon Recreation and Nature Area.
Hahn said he expected lots of interest in the larger lots along the trail.
Council member Dan O’Neil echoed Whitehead in support of affordable housing options and complimented the Watts Group on the quality of its developments. He asked whether the stormwater outlot shown on the concept plan would be a pond or a dry-bottom detention basin.
Hahn said calculations were not complete, but the developers would see a wet-bottom pond as much more desirable.
Several council members, however, objected to placing the highest-density homes near the highway.
Council member Steve Duncan didn’t care for the starkness of four-plexes along the road, and suggested a preference for zero-lot lines or single-family properties.
“It just doesn’t fit my eye, when I’m driving out past Old Mill Creek and I look over south of 382 and looking at three- and four-plexes is the first thing I see,” he noted.
Hahn clarified the four-plexes would be constructed as rows of townhouses.
Duncan was otherwise supportive, as was council member Lynn Morris, who questioned the developers about traffic and parkland.
Morris noted the concept drawing depicted parks in wetland outlots.
“Are these people going to have a park?” she asked. “I guess I have concerns about our designated parks being in wetland area.”
Boelk, also present for the virtual meeting, explained the designation referred to the 500-year flood plain. In the southern outlot where the dog park would be located, only a portion on the western edge is in the flood plain, he said.
Most of the area, including the proposed dog park, is not in the flood plain, would be dry most of the time and suitable for park activities, he added.
Hahn said the dog park would be fenced, and while there would be street parking, residents outside the development would be asked to access the park from the nature trail.
Mayor Steve Stange noted many of the streets dead-end heading into the Tom Greazel property, as if it were part of future development. He questioned whether developers were negotiating for its purchase.
Hahn indicated affirmatively, but Stange asked what would happen without the land, pointing out the need for snowplows and emergency vehicles to turn around.
“We’d have to do something, cause that’s a lot of dead-ends,” he observed.
Hahn indicated developers would pave or gravel the hammerheads.
Jeff Geistkemper, whose property lies in unincorporated Johnson County on the north side of Highway 382 just east of the cemetery, wanted to know if the city was going to require him to install a sidewalk.
“That’s quite a distance for anyone to get the sidewalks to that point,” he noted. Geistkemper said he wasn’t totally against the project, but concerned over potential personal expense.
Stange promised to keep Geistkemper informed and told him nothing would happen quickly.
Rasmussen indicated the other unincorporated property belongs to Michelle and Alan Bennett, also on the north side of Highway 382 west of Geistkemper. Both property owners were invited to attend the meeting, she said.
Rasmussen asked council members for feedback, particularly regarding the stubbed streets around the Tom Greazel property.
Whitehead, O’Neil and John Farlinger expressed support.
Duncan reiterated his concern about aesthetics, while Morris wondered about the development’s impact on Highway 382 and its distance from the city limits.
Public Works Director Scott Kleppe reported the Trail Ridge Estates entrance is two-10ths of a mile from the secondary access to the Old Mill Creek subdivision, and a half-mile from the original Old Mill Creek entrance.
Stange indicated City Engineer Dave Schechinger would review the proposed development for traffic safety.
If the Tom Greazel property comes into the development, Schechinger said, a third access might be created. He will continue to work through the issues with the developer as the process moves along.
According to City Attorney Kevin Olson, the annexation process will take several months, including consultation with county and township officials.
If the Grace Greazel Estate property and Oakland Cemetery annexed in voluntarily, he argued, the city would have the right to annex the unincorporated parcels as non-consenting owners.
That doesn’t mean you can’t work with them to voluntarily annex, he said, but you would have legal authority.
Council members wholeheartedly supported sending the concept plan to the P&Z for consideration, and Rasmussen said feedback would be provided to Watts Group to inform further revisions.