BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio — A proposed townhome subdivision, made possible by voters in May, now faces a potential legal roadblock.
Ledges of Broadview would consist of 36 paired townhomes off the north side of Ohio 82, about 2,000 feet west of Broadview Road, according to the project’s developer, Drees Homes, a Kentucky-based home builder with an office in Brecksville.
On May 7, Broadview Heights voters rezoned the proposed Ledges of Broadview site from a single-family district, which prohibits townhomes, to the city’s unique Town Center Special Planning District Zone B, which permits townhomes.
However, on July 1, an attorney representing a company called Gill Construction Inc. — which according to at least one Broadview Heights property owner was involved in the project with Drees from the beginning — formally objected to the subdivision moving forward.
The attorney, Anthony Vacanti of the Cleveland law firm Tucker Ellis LLP, told City Council that Drees dropped one of the four parcels that originally made up the Ledges of Broadview site. Gill had an option to purchase that parcel, contingent on the rezoning, so eliminating it from the project means that Gill would be excluded from the project.
“This gives rise to serious legal issues, not only among the parties (Drees, Gill and the Ledges of Broadview property owners) but also for the city,” Vacanti wrote in a July 1 letter to council.
“Given the city wanted all four properties part of the rezoning and the project, and based on such representations moved forward with the rezoning, it appears there may have been misrepresentations to council that need to be clarified and addressed,” Vacanti said.
Council’s Building Codes Committee tabled the Ledges of Broadview plan because Drees Homes representatives were unable to attend the July 1 meeting. The issue is scheduled to come up again at the committee’s Aug. 19 meeting.
Vacanti didn’t say why Drees removed one parcel and excluded Gill Construction from the subdivision. After the July 1 meeting, he told cleveland.com that he was still investigating the matter.
“At this point, we’re still wrapping our arms around it,” Vacanti told cleveland.com on July 2. “I just found out about this yesterday.
“All I can say is that four properties were intended to be included in the rezoning and were to be developed together,” Vacanti said. “That’s what was represented to the city and to voters. There are other legal issues I’m trying to understand that I’m not ready to comment on.”
It’s also not clear which Gill Construction Vacanti is representing. Cleveland.com contacted Ken Gill Construction LLC in Port Clinton and William Gill Construction Inc. in LaGrange, but both said they had nothing to do with Ledges of Broadview.
Cleveland.com was then referred to a David Gill as a possible party in the Ledges of Broadview project. He didn’t return calls.
Also not returning calls were Thom Sutcliffe, land acquisition manager with Drees Homes in Brecksville; Matthew Fiala, who according to the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office website co-owns the parcel that Drees dropped from Ledges of Broadview; and Louis Colantuono, owner of the other three parcels that are still included in the Drees plan.
The disappearing parcel
Originally, Drees proposed building 42 upscale, paired townhomes on 16 acres. The site consisted of four parcels just west of the Weeping Cherry Village apartments. Colantuono, Fiala and Ashley Newton, who co-owns one of the parcels with Fiala, sent letters to the city supporting the project.
In a Nov. 21 rezoning application, Drees Homes doesn’t mention Gill Construction. In an accompanying letter, Sutcliffe only refers to “Drees Homes and its associates and assignees.”
The only mention of Gill Construction by name is by Fiala and Newton in their letter to the city. They say they “support the efforts of Gill Construction Inc.” and Drees Homes in the rezoning process.
On June 24 — more than a month after voters rezoned the land — Sutcliffe sent a letter and blueprint showing the proposed Ledges of Broadview to the city. The project would now consist of 36 homes instead of 42, and three parcels instead of four, on 13 acres instead of 16.
The parcel dropped from the plan belongs to Fiala and Newton. Vacanti said Gill Construction had an option to purchase the Fiala-Newton parcel but not the other three parcels owned by Colantuono.
In the June 24 letter, Sutcliffe did not explain why the plan had been changed or even acknowledge that a change had occurred.
Sutcliffe said in the letter that Ledges of Broadview would include a new street with a cul-de-sac. The two-story homes would have full basements. Construction was scheduled to start in winter 2019-2020, with the first homes occupied in mid-2020.
“Drees Homes and its associates and assignees are looking forward to bringing the Drees Homes townhome products to the Cleveland market for the first time, and strongly believe that Broadview Heights is the ideal community to kick off this effort,” Sutcliffe wrote.
According to the blueprint, the development would also include walking paths, benches and stormwater retention and detention basins.
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