CLEVELAND, Ohio — One of the most contentious political debates in Northeast Ohio this year is not about the presidential election, control of the Senate or even the Ohio Statehouse corruption scandal.
It’s about zoning in Pepper Pike.
Hundreds of yard signs bearing the phrase “No to Mixed-Use” are scattered throughout the small, well-to-do far-eastern suburb. They line the sidewalk-less residential streets as part of an effort that opposition organizer Manny Naft said aims to keep the city’s “bucolic” nature.
The signs refer to a measure on the Nov. 3 ballot to change the zoning for a 68-acre tract of land owned by behavioral health services nonprofit Beech Brook, along with two smaller adjoining lots. The issue has divided the community.
The division resulted in online bickering, contentious town hall meetings, threats of defamation lawsuits and even unused condoms left at Axiom Development Principal Bryan Stone’s home.
Stone, who lives in Pepper Pike, announced last month that he and the project’s investors scrapped plans to buy and develop the property at Lander Road and Chagrin Boulevard with houses, townhouses, office space and retail. After a lot of planning, he blamed the rancor surrounding the project.
“We will not move forward and invest time and energy on an idea that has been completely removed from the realm of civil discourse,” he wrote in a Sept. 25 news release.
However, Pepper Pike voters still have a chance to vote on the zoning change in November’s election. The proposal remains on the ballot.
Beech Brook CEO Tom Royer said in an email that the nonprofit decided not to pull the measure when Stone backed out. Early voting began Tuesday.
Regardless, the organization is now out of a deal to sell a property it longer needs to carry out its mission. The nonprofit has