The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 23, 2013

Conneaut housing project breezes through council hearing

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT —  A plan to build dozens of houses on a former lakefront golf course heard hardly a discouraging word at a City Council public hearing Tuesday night.

Council heard details about a partnership between BuildWorks, a local contractor, and landowner James Farmakis that could transport the long-abandoned Conneaut Shores Golf Course into the city’s newest housing development.

Vincent Rose of BuildWorks said he envisions a four-phase project over the years that could erect as many as 126 houses on the 70-plus acres, he said.

The first phase would construct houses in the $149,000-$189,000 price range along Lake Road, followed by a cluster of smaller houses off Whitney Road, each costing between $129,000-$169,000, Rose said. A waiting list has already been created for the smaller houses, he said.

Initially, the Lake Road houses were expected to be smaller, but feedback from would-be clients indicated a preference for a larger structure, Rose said. As a result, seven houses have been targeted for the Lake Road phase, he said.

“The houses will be twice the size we originally thought,” Rose said. “We’ll keep it not too crowded and keep it marketable.”

Homes will rise on the flatter sections of the rolling property, using the remaining acreage as green space and for drainage, council was told.

The only concern voiced at the hearing came from a Clinton Avenue man who said he bought his home because of the woods and quiet setting behind his property. He feared the housing development would disrupt the solitude.

In November, the city’s Planning Commission convened a similar public hearing that attracted more than 30 people, the vast majority in support of the project. Previous attempts to market the property have been rebuffed by the city because it involved a zoning change, which upset and concerned neighbors. BuildWorks eschewed a zoning change and instead is approaching the development as a planned unit development, which gives the city some say and control in the project.

The planning commission has already endorsed the PUD. If council has no objections, developers will be authorized to prepare detailed plans and blueprints for the planning panel’s final review and approval.

Commission members have already logged a great deal of research on the project, said Council President Thomas Udell. “They’ve done their homework really well,” he said.

City Council has also been actively involved, said Ward 4 Councilman Thomas Kozesky. “This project has been well-studied by council,” he said.

Council’s economic development committee could take up the housing project at its next meeting, Udell said. The full council could be ready to formally consider the PUD application sometime in February, he said.