The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

November 14, 2012

Neighbors endorse Conneaut initiative

CONNEAUT —  A new approach to a multi-years effort to put housing on an empty golf course has apparently won the support of people who once were staunch opponents of the plan.

On Tuesday night, Conneaut’s Planning Commission held a public hearing to discuss a project that would transform portions of the old Conneaut Shores Golf Course into new residential neighborhoods. The proposal, a partnership between BuildWorks of Conneaut and landowner James Farmakis, would put single-family houses on portions of the 70-plus acres at Lake and Whitney roads. Work would be spread over four phases that could take years to fully develop, said BuildWorks’ Vincent Rose.

Past efforts to use the golf course for housing have relied on a rezoning change that worried neighbors and was resisted by City Council. This time around, developers are seeking to build as a planned unit development, an option contained in the city’s zoning code.

Unlike a rezoning change, a PUD locks the developer into a concept that can’t be arbitrarily changed without a whole new application process. The result is a project that contains no surprises to anger neighbors and city leaders.

“It won’t grow,” Rose said at the hearing. “We can reduce it, but it can’t grow.”

In the past, Farmakis sought the rezoning change to make the golf course more attractive to buyers. He had no intentions of developing the project himself, which worried neighbors. The PUD approach, with an actual developer who can provide drawings and maps, proved reassuring to many in the stand-room-only crowd.

Many voiced support for the project, among them Nicholas Iarocci, a neighbor who said he had opposed past attempts to rezone the land. This go-around is different, he said.

“Now we have developer who was born and raised here,” Iarocci said. “Somebody who is committed to Conneaut. And we have a PUD. This is precisely what some of us have been asking for.”

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