PEPPER PIKE, Ohio — While the city continues to work on revising its U-2 zoning classification and preparing required site plan specifics for future developments, the Ursuline Sisters are making plans for the property they own and would like to sell for development south of the Ursuline College campus.
The Ursuline Sisters do not own the college campus, but they do own several acres of property that they have an interest in developing north of Fairmount Boulevard. Ursuline Sisters President Sister Ritamary Welsh said that one such development is in the planning stages, while another is in the investigative stage. The sisters, meanwhile, can’t turn in any official plans to the city because of Pepper Pike’s current moratorium on building on U-2-zoned properties. U-2 is the classification for public buildings and, while the sisters’ land is now zoned U-2, it would have to be rezoned for single-family use before plans could move ahead.
The plan that is more advanced is one named Creative Living for Life. It would entail the construction of 25 single-person dwelling units on just over three acres of now wooded property the sisters own east of Windy Hill Drive.
“Creative Living for Life would include building homes for high-functioning adults with physical and developmental disabilities,” Welsh said. “They would not be attached, they’d all be individual units, built in a circular pattern. It (planning) is pretty far along but, unfortunately, with the moratorium and the revision of the U-2 zoning, we’re not sure of anything that will happen on our property. I have no idea when it would begin until we get those directives from Pepper Pike.”
The Creative Living for Life site would require cutting down a number of trees, but Welsh said that, just as the Ursuline Sisters did when building their new Merici Crossing three-story dwelling, they will replace with new trees on their property any trees removed. A ribbon cutting ceremony for Merici Crossing1/4 u201a which can accommodate 70 nuns, was held in June, 2019. It replaced the sisters’ old mother house, which is now in the process of demolition.
The Ursuline Sisters would team with Medina Creative Housing if, or when, permitted to move forward with the project.
“The reason we thought we could have Medina Creative Housing build is because we see that as very compatible with our (Ursuline) mission, working with people who are disabled,” Welsh said. “Part of the mission of Ursuline Sisters is to work with justice issues and those who are poor, not just those who are poor money-wise, but also those who need additional help. But, again, I don’t know if it will happen with the zoning (not yet clear).”
In addition to the Creative Living for Life project, the sisters are looking to sell 22 acres of property just north of the new Merici Crossing building.
The Ursuline Sisters have had talks with Fairmount Properties, the developer of Pinecrest in Orange, as well as other large-scale projects in the Flats in Cleveland, about purchasing the land for such a project.
“One of our plans, originally, and we have to wait for the decision from the city, was to build a 55-and-older active senior housing complex there,” said Welsh. “That’s what Fairmount had been considering, but again, nothing has been decided.”
Welsh said that Ursuline College has also shown interest in purchasing the 22 acres for an undisclosed purpose. She added that there may also be other interested buyers as the moratorium continues. The moratorium went into effect on Dec. 18, 2019, and will last one year.
Mayor Richard Bain, in an email to cleveland.com, said that a Fairmount Properties project could include approximately 176 townhomes, but Welsh said that no numbers have been decided upon.
“That moratorium,” Bain stated in his email, “occurred during the same period council studied the rezoning application for Beech Brook (68 acres at 3737 Lander Road), which drew council’s attention to the deficiencies of standards and review procedures of the U-2 institutional (public buildings) zoning district. Any change decided upon would apply to all U-2 property in the city, including, for example, the country clubs, schools, religious organizations and government.”
Bain said the sisters could request that their property be rezoned to U-1A, which would allow for the Creative Living and proposed Fairmount Properties senior complex. A change in zoning would allow developers to avoid the moratorium’s directive against building.
“An intense residential development may not be an appropriate choice of land use at the proposed location of the Ursuline Sisters property,” Bain wrote, “but that is a conclusion that is ultimately to be determined by the voters of the city of Pepper Pike, either via legislation that has been enacted by council upon a report of the Planning Commission, or via an initiative petition, which was the route followed by Axiom (Development Group) and Beech Brook.” Axiom has since decided against seeking rezoning for Beech Brook.
“Our policy and practice is to treat all of the property owners in the city in an equal manner, and Medina Creative Living, Fairmount Properties and the Ursuline Sisters, have the right to seek the land use they like.” Bain did call it “a concern” that trees would have to be removed for the Creative Living project, but added that it is an issued that will be “fairly evaluated when or if a proposal is received.”
Welsh said that, in addition to the 3acres for the Creative Living project and the 22 acres Fairmount Properties is considering, the Ursuline Sisters own another 8-10 acres. The sisters have not yet decided what to do with the 8-10 acres.
The Ursuline Sisters, in 1927 purchased the land it now owns, as well as the Ursuline College land it sold several years ago to the college. It had previously sold property along Cedar Road for the construction of what is now The Luxe townhouse development.
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