No oversized community center in single family zone
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Dear Mayor and Counselors,
We, residents of Solon, are very concerned with the proposed Chagrin Valley Islamic Center development to be located at 6911 Liberty Road, Solon, Ohio.
We hereby object to the development as was approved by the City of Solon Council May, 2017.
Our concerns relate to a number of issues, City of Solon negligence and failure of the notification process, City of Solon misinterpretation of the definition of house of worship, general residents safety, traffic congestion, high voltage electricity safety and health hazards, noise pollution, neighborhood aesthetics, loss of privacy by adjacent properties, devaluation of property values in the surrounding neighborhoods, damage to the wetlands, large amounts of generated wastes affecting sewage systems, and rising costs for police services. These concerns are elaborated on below.
1. Notification Procedure
The City of Solon claims by City code, written notifications of the proposed development and the 11 requested variances were mailed to the six adjacent property owners. None of the six acknowledge receiving any notification. Only one of the six homeowners acknowledge receiving a notification from the City of Solon after the proposed developed was approved. Only one homeowner was invited to the final approval meeting in May, 2017. That homeowner voiced their concerns and was told by the City that this proposal was a “done deal” and their concerns were ignored. That homeowner was not advised of his right to file an appeal within 30 days. At a Nov 14, 2017 meeting, the City accused the residents of failing to take action within the 30 day appealing period, resulting in the proposal to be finalized. None of the residents living within 1 mile of 6911 Liberty Road have ever been notified of this project or of the public hearings appeal process. The City could have chosen to notify over 1500 households in the neighborhoods on Liberty Road, the Woodlands, the Preserve, Heritage Landing, Signature of Solon I and II, Rollingbrook, Southwoods and Thornbury. Affected residents were not allowed to have a voice because of the City’s negligence.
2. Many Variances
11 variances have been approved for this development without proper notifications to affected adjacent properties. Adjacent residents were not allowed a voice on variances granted on the height of the minaret (12 feet more than 35 feet allowed for this zoning), the building color, street access, and storage shed and dumpster locations (24 feet from other property line of the lot while 26 feet required). Approval of these variances will negatively affect adjacent residents and neighborhoods.
We challenge the City of Solon’s definition for a house of worship under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act that allows houses or worship to be approved in residential areas. At its completion, the proposed development will include a 47 foot high building for pray, a bridge connecting the pray area and Community Center housing a gymnasium exceeding 16,000 square feet, with the entire center exceeding 41,000 square feet. By definition, a house of worship is a specifically designed structure or consecrated space where individuals or a group of people such as a congregation come to perform acts of devotion, veneration, or religious study. A building constructed or used for this purpose is called a house of worship. A Community Center is not a house of worship. A walking foot bridge is not a house of worship. A gymnasium is not a house of worship. A development of this size should not be approved in a residential area.
Per the Planning Commission Journal, Number 76, Fall 2009, some local governments allow only smaller, more neighborhood scaled institutions in residential districts that traditionally seat between 100 – 250 congregation members. The proposed center anticipated congregation size has been stated to be around 300. We challenge the City’s decision to approve a congregation of that size. 250 people do not need over 41,000 square feet of space to worship.
4. Traffic and Parking
We challenge the traffic study as accepted by the City of Solon as being biased, incomplete and inaccurate. It falsely represents true traffic conditions. The study was conducted in the middle of a week day afternoon on a school holiday, greatly decreasing the amount of traffic. A development of this proposed size will attract a large number of visitors from Solon, Cuyahoga County, and neighboring counties bordering Solon, significantly increasing traffic on Liberty Road. The development will have an entrance on Liberty Road aligning directly opposite Spicebush Lane, forming a crossroad intersection. Within a 1 mile span, Liberty Road will have 3 busy intersections, making a congested area more congested. Increased traffic increases the risk of traffic accidents. School and rush hour traffic times were not included in the traffic study. There are several school bus routes from Solon City Schools use Liberty Road. As of now, the City has no plans to address the increased traffic a development of this size will bring in terms of widening Liberty Road now or in the future. Increased traffic on Liberty Road will negatively and directly affect the traffic on Aurora Road, already one of the most congested streets in the City. Aurora Road intersects Liberty Road immediately north of the proposed site.
The applicant of this development project hired and paid for the traffic study provided for the City’s consideration. The City traffic advisors reviewed the study and state they would found the same result. The City should have hired and/or conducted their own independent traffic study on an appropriate day(s) and at varying times. Accepting a study influenced or funded by an interested party is negligent.
Another traffic related issue of concern is the proposed 182 space parking lot. With a proposed congregation size of 300 and additional invited guests from other communities for special events, parking will not be adequate to accommodate all visitors. This will result in overflow parking on nearby neighborhood streets and neighborhood disruption and inconvenience
Frequency of visits for daily prayers (up to five times a day), Sunday school programs, gymnasium visits, major holidays and other events such as weddings, funerals throughout the year could make traffic and parking issues a persistent and repeated problem for the surrounding neighborhood and local residents.
The City was negligent in approving the development with inadequate onsite parking. The proposed development is too large for the site selected.
5. Safety and Health Hazards
We challenge the City’s consideration of overall safety for adjacent residents and neighborhoods during and after construction of a development of this size directly below high voltage power lines.
We are concerned the high-voltage electric transmission lines crossing through the development site is unsafe environment for a development. We are concerned that heavy machinery and cranes maneuvering around and under these high voltage electric transmission lines during construction and afterward may cause serious injury and possible disaster. The National Electric Safety Code sets minimum clearance distances between power lines and obstructions or the ground. Anything too close to high-voltage lines can cause electricity from the lines to “flash” or cause a short circuit. Obstructions such as the proposed metal dome roof and high minaret will increase the potential for danger to adjacent residents and neighborhoods from nearby overhead high-voltage lines. The proposed182 space parking lot is to be located directly below the high-voltage lines. Many electric companies suggest there is a high risk of nuisance shocks due to parking or driving under high-voltage lines especially for large vehicles like trucks or buses.
Parking under high-voltage lines is not only an immediate safety concern, but also a health safety issue to individuals in the vicinity of these high electromagnetic fields (EMF). Recent scientific research, for example, has shown there is a definite increase in incidence of certain cancers in individuals exposed to these types of high EMF.
6. Noise Pollution
As mentioned above, we believe this proposed development including a Community Center far exceeds normal house of worship activity and will bring a large number of visitors regularly during daily operation times. Based on a typical pray schedule, the center starts early like 3-4am and close between 10-11pm. We are concerned the noise from the standard uses of the facility will negatively affect the current peaceful and quiet lifestyle adjacent residents have. The City has decided to choose their lifestyle for them, but not allowing their voices to be heard.
7. Loss of Privacy
The proposed development is directly adjacent to three existing homeowners’ lots. A significant number of trees between the proposed site and the adjacent properties is to be cleared without the three adjacent properties being notified nor given information on how to voice their opinions or concerns. With a negligent and incomplete notification process, the City has decided for them resulting in two homes being directly exposed to the public without any privacy.
8. Damage to the Environment
Building this development will require the removal of a large area of trees that occupy precious wetlands. The City of Solon has a total area of 20.49 square miles, of which 20.36 square miles is land and 0.13 square miles is water. The Solon population density is more than 1,100/square mile. Solon lies in a humid continental climate zone and experiences relatively high precipitation. Preservation of wetlands is very important to our environment.
9. Waste Pollution
The daily activities of this proposed development will generate a large amount of waste. The City of Solon collects trash once a week. The potential for odor and increased exposure to bacteria, especially during hot weather, from large amounts of waste accumulating outdoors will negatively affect adjacent residents.
We challenge the City’s assessment of the impact on the current sewer system capacity to more than adequately process the additional wastes produced during the developments highly attended activities.
10. Negative effect on property values
We strongly believe the above issues and concerns of building a development of this size in an established residential area will negatively impact definitely property values.
11. Rising costs of security services
We believe the negative impact on traffic, parking, noise, and safety may require additional security services by the City of Solon, to be funded by the Solon taxpayers. As a nonprofit religious group, this facility will not be contributing to the tax base of the City of Solon, but instead will shift a significant cost burden to the tax payers of Solon.
Considering the various issues mentioned above and long term negative impacts this proposed Development Plan may have on the neighborhood and local residents, as local residents, we together urge the Council to reject this development plan.
12. Neighborhood Aesthetics
The combined size of the proposed plaza including oversized Community center and school, specifically its height, bridge, shiny metal dome roof, tall minarets, and light green facade will completely change the natural and woodsy aesthetic appeal of the surrounding area and negatively affect the natural environment of the adjacent neighborhood. The 1500 residences in these neighborhoods chose to build or move into homes in a quiet, natural area. The City did not allow them a voice in the approval process and has now chosen their living environment for them. This is not an example of equal and fair representation.
With this petition, we demand equal and fair representation to have our rights upheld and respected and to have our voices heard. We request a hold be put on this development project so concerned affected residents and the general public are allowed a well-communicated means to express objections and concerns or other opinions. The City needs to provide more information to the broader community for their input, and hold public hearings with regard to this development.
We believe this is a development of significant interest to the community and demand our voice be heard. We did not elect you to make decisions for us that significantly and negatively affect our properties, our property values and our lifestyles. We elected you to equally and fairly represent all citizens, and to use your wisdom to know when the black and white written rules and code require a more complete interpretation for complete and thorough action. We look to you to correct mistakes and correct processes that were done wrong. Residents and residents’ property values should not be put at a disadvantage because the City acted irresponsibly and incompletely.
We look to the current Administration to correct the mistakes of past Administrations. We hope we cast the right votes in recent elections.
Denise Smith , Jude Smith, and Other Solon Residents
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