Garrettsville – Are you wondering what is a ‘walkable neighborhood’? If you Google the term, it is broadly defined as a community that is a desirable place to live, work, learn, worship and play. It fosters smart growth because goods (such as housing, offices, and retail) and services (such as transportation, schools, libraries) are located within an easy and safe walk of each other. Walkable neighborhoods foster pedestrian activity by mixing land uses, building compactly and ensuring safe and inviting pedestrian corridors.
So, you ask yourself, isn’t most of Garrettsville already a walkable neighborhood? Well, yes. A walkable neighborhood is nothing new and the title is really just a catchy phrase to describe a concept that has existed since the dawn of civilization. So what is the ‘buzz’ in Garrettsville?
Local developer Dave Harrington recently approached Garrettsville’s leaders about an idea he had regarding a portion of land within his new Fox Hollow Development located on State Route 82 on the west side of town. He told them that people like the idea of living in Garrettsville. It’s safe and friendly and, like the term ‘walkable neighborhood’ implies, amenities like grocery shopping, restaurants and the movie theatre are walking distance from the development. However, for quite some time, a number of people that have inquired about building a new home in Fox Hollow and Harrington’s other Garrettsville development, The Reserve at Eagle Creek, have been discouraged at the thought of all the outside maintenance of the property. He said that often these people didn’t have the time to devote or the capabilities required to take care of a ½ acre yard (the current minimum lot size requirement for new home building in the village).
At first Harrington thought about building condominiums, but in today’s financial market, financing is extremely difficult for that type of project. Single-family homes seemed the best choice, but to make the concept work he needed some changes to Garrettsville’s existing zoning regulations. Harrington came up with a concept that would allow for quality, affordable single-family homes in a village neighborhood without the hassle and stress of yard maintenance.
Harrington first pitched his ideas to the planning commission. His solution was to offer an area in the Fox Hollow Development with smaller lots sizes and a homeowners’ association that would be responsible for the yard maintenance. The new community would meet all criteria for a ‘walkable neighborhood’ as well as still meeting all standards for quality outlined in the zoning code.
On the planning commission’s recommendation, village solicitor Michelle Stuck drafted a proposed amendment to the existing zoning ordinances that was then presented to village council. At the September 2013 village council meeting, council approved proposed ordinance 2013-30, which enacted section 1171.07 of the codified ordinances of the village enacting a ‘walkable neighborhood’ overlay district in the R-2 residential zoning district.
Since village council passed the ordinance amending zoning regulations to allow the changes, Harrington and his associates have been busy finalizing all the details. They are planning to break ground as early as the end of October in the section in the Fox Hollow development devoted to the new walkable neighborhood. The planned 22 homes on ¼ acre lots will average 1700-2000 square feet of living space and be extremely energy efficient.
Details are still being worked out for the deed restrictions on the properties. The restrictions will include membership a homeowners association that will govern the outdoor maintenance services. The plan is to have the association responsible for mowing the lawns, trimming the vegetation, snow removal and garbage collection. Homeowners will still be responsible for the exterior upkeep and maintenance of the home itself. Harrington also stated that they are also planning to build a pavilion in a common area for resident use.
Harrington sees the neighborhood as “the best of both worlds. Like a condo, you won’t have to worry about yard maintenance or shoveling your drive in the winter, but unlike a condo, you actually own the home and property.” Harrington went on to say, “single family homes allow for space and privacy that usually is lacking in condo communities.”
When asked about affordability, Harrington replied, “There are financing options available that make these homes within reach of many people.” He also stated “a new home means less repair and maintenance and the energy efficiency required by today’s building standards and codes keeps utilities low, which means lots of savings.”
According to Garrettsville village solicitor Stuck, the legislation village council enacted is for ‘conditional use’ subject to planning commission approval. Though the current legislation happened because of a request by Harrington, any developer that meets the criteria for building in the R-2 district can apply for planning commission approval for the conditional use.