Development at W. 11th and Fairfield rushed while issues raised at block club go unresolved


Tuesday, March 21, 2023; W. 11th and Fairfield: Despite objections raised at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting on June 27,2022, the Board of Zoning Appeals approved a variance allowing 5,000 square feet of retail space as part of a project by 1209 Fairfield LLC in a multi-family residential district. Owners of the property at 2220 W. 11, just South of the new development, did not object to the 100 residential units proposed, but were concerned that there would be no way to contact retail customers of businesses in the project to ask them to go slowly down the driveway their house will share with the new development. Their concern was that their tenant exits her apartment by a door located in the shared driveway.

Development at W. 11th and Fairfield rushed while issues raised at block club go unresolved

by Chuck Hoven

(April 2023, Plain Press)         The fallout from a rushed decision over a development project on W. 11th and Fairfield has led to one long time devoted Tremont developer selling his properties and moving to Cuyahoga Falls. Board of Zoning Appeals June 27, 2022 approval of a variance for parking lot for retail establishments that would share a driveway with buildings owned by David Territo in a multifamily residential district was the issue that drove him from the city.  Speaking of the City of Cleveland’s Board of Zoning Appeals, Territo said, “the biggest problem is they didn’t follow their own zoning laws. They followed nothing.” Territo said he sold his properties to someone that will use them as an Air-BnB.

     Tremont West Development Corporation which prides itself in its process of having block club approval before projects go forward, seems to have failed to adhere to this process.

     An email from TWDC Economic Development Committee Chari Fredrick Calatrello was submitted by Tremont West Development Corporation for the record to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) at its June 27th meeting. The email shows that the North of Literary Block Club, at a meeting on June 21st 2022 wanted to rescind its April vote in support of the variances.

     In the email Calatrello says, “I just came from a spirited North of Literary meeting where the main issue on the agenda involved residents of W. 11th who would be impacted by the Driftwood developers’ proposal to add 25 parking spaces off the existing easement access on W. 11th Street. Primarily, Dave Territo, but also other neighbors complained that the plan would cause traffic and safety issues for them.” The email says, “after much discussion, the block club voted to reconsider the original vote in light of the parking plan that was developed after the April meeting and to recommend that the parties return to the Economic Development Committee to further discussion on the parking issue.”

     The email noted a request was being made via Executive Director Cory Riordan to Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack to ask for a postponement of the June 27th BZA meeting so the issue can be addressed at TWDC’s July 7th Economic Development Committee meeting.

     The postponement never occurred. And Councilman Kerry McCormack spoke of the importance of the community process in Tremont. Then without acknowledging that the North of Literary Block Club and the TWDC Economic Development Committee chair wanted to revisit the issue, he said the neighborhood block club approved of the project, the Economic Development Committee and the TWDC Board approved the proposed development. He offered his support for the project.

     Territo, Keith Sutton – Territo’s long time development partner, and others that testified against the use of the driveway with the shared easement and a parking lot configuration that impacted residents of a front house on W. 11th as well as rear houses that used the driveway with the easement.

     In making a motion to approve the retail space and the parking lot BZA member Alana Faith noted the support of both Councilman McCormack and Tremont West Development Corporation. The BZA approved both variances by a 4-0 vote.

     In making the decision to approve the variances, the Board of Zoning Appeals voted against the advice of their own staff attorney that the law required screening between the proposed parking lot and the nearby residents. She cited the law that said, “The parking lot and that portion of the driveway back of the building line are to be adequately screened from the street from the adjoining property in a residence district by a hedge sightly fence or wall not less than 4 feet 6 inches high and not more than 5 feet high located back of the setback building line. All lighting is to be arranged so that there will be no glare that is known to occupants of adjoining property and residence district and the surface parking lot is to be smoothly grated hard surfaced and adequately drained.”

     One proposal from those opposed to the project involved reducing the size of the parking lot from 25 to 13 spaces. Putting in screening and giving up the right to the easement was another proposal. Territo said he was not opposed to the overall project just the cars that would be driving past the homes next to the development, including one residence whose door opened right into the drive with the easement.

     Former City of Cleveland Planning Director Bob Brown testified for the nearby residents and said that there was no hardship that wasn’t self-imposed by the developers. He said the health, safety and welfare of residents should be given precedence over increased profit for the developer

     The problem brought up at the block club meeting was that the developers planned to have retail space that would be accessed by customers through the same driveway. A resident who attended the June 21st meeting, explained to the Plain Press that this would mean that an upstairs resident of 2220 W. 11th would be exiting her house door that opened into the shared driveway. The resident explained that if the new development was all residential, the residents could be given a notice to drive slowly past her door in case she was coming out. If the people using the driveway were retail customers of businesses, giving such notice would not be possible.

     While the owners of 2220 W. 11th and the rear houses made that case before the Board of Zoning Appeals at its June 27, 2022 meeting, the Board of Zoning Appeals, despite this safety concern, awarded a variance to allow retail establishments on the site.

     The proposed project called for 100 residential units, 5,000 square feet of retail space and the creation of an additional 25 car parking lot for both residential and retail use.

     1111 Fairfield Avenue mixed use apartment project spokesperson Aaron Taylor of J-Roc Development told the Board of Zoning Appeals that everyone was excited about the apartment project and the retail. He said the house at 2226 W. 11th was purchased to provide additional parking because neighbors at the block club meeting requested more parking be supplied for the project. He noted that the retail portion of the project was what required a variance.

     The project is in a multifamily residential district where retail is not allowed –therefore a variance would be needed to go forward.

     TWDC Executive Director Cory Riordan noted the approval of the project at the April 19 North of Literary Block Club May 5th Economic Dev Committee. Riordan said the North of Literary Block Club agreed to hear from directly impacted neighbor at their June meeting at which time the Block Club was still very supportive of the building. There were questions about the parking lot, he said.

     While Riordan attached the email referenced above that indicated the North of Literary Block Club and Economic Development Committee desired to revisit the issue concerning the additional parking for the project. He seemed to downplay the issue and let Councilman McCormack’s contention that the project had full support of TWDC go unchallenged.

TWDC’s involvement

     The Tremont West Development Corporation’s (TWDC) minutes of its Board of Directors meeting show some of the history of a development project and role of the development corporation in that process.

     The January 2022 TWDC Board of Director’s minutes reference pressure from the City of Cleveland to expedite a project proposed by J-Roc, the developers of a previous project in Tremont called Electric Gardens, for a new project called Driftwood Apartments at the corner of W. 11th and Fairfield. The minutes say: “Developers of Electric Gardens seeking Block Club agenda in February. Going through standard TWDC process but has generally faster timelines than feasible. City of Cleveland is pushing things through faster and encouraging expedience, TWDC is seeking more community input opportunity.”

     The minutes of the February 17, 2022 TWDC Board of Directors meeting have a short note in the Executive Director’s report concerning W. 11th and Fairfield “Meeting with Block Club went well. New Developer (same as Electric Gardens).”

     In its March 17th Meeting the TWDC Board of Directors, TWDC Executive Director Cory Riorden reported to the Board indicates that the block club did an initial review of plans for the 90-unit development at W. 11th and Fairfield at a February 15, 2022 meeting.

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