Solon sending resolution to county supervisors on proposed housing development

Council concerns center on possible future annexation

An aerial photo shows the topography of the proposed Oak Meadow development proposal. IMAGE VIA JOHNSON COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

The Solon City Council voted unanimously Oct. 6 to send a resolution to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors regarding a planned housing development west of Solon – the latest installment in a contentious saga between the two local governments concerning the development.

At issue is the Oak Meadow subdivision, a planned development of up to 25 residential lots on a 65-acre parcel approximately two miles west of the Solon city limits known informally as the “O’Brien Farm.” The third and final reading of the rezoning request for the project was approved in late September by the Board of Supervisors, but not before a joint meeting of the supervisors and the Solon City Council.

At that meeting, questions were raised about the project’s compliance with a fringe area development agreement between the city and county, as well as development standards for streets and water treatment infrastructure, and the two government agencies agreed to review the fringe area agreement for possible future revisions.

But in the meantime, county officials maintained, the Oak Meadow project meets all current development requirements and complies with the county’s comprehensive plan for the area. Josh Busard, Johnson County’s director of planning, development and sustainability, said at the September meeting that while the fringe area agreement can be extended or modified with the consent of both parties,  “I feel we’re handing the application appropriately” regarding the Oak Meadow development.

Solon council members, however, continued to express concerns about the development Wednesday night, most centered around the possibility that the area could be annexed into the city in the future as Solon continues to grow.

Solon mayor Steve Stange and council member Lynn Morris listen to a presentation at the council’s meeting Oct. 6. RICHARD PRATT PHOTO

The resolution approved by the council, to be sent to the board of supervisors as part of the next steps in the development’s consideration, includes a number of proposals, including a moratorium on future developments in the two-mile fringe area and a requirement that developers test the water in the area for arsenic before approving the development, which currently calls for private water wells.

The council also proposed adding a conditional future surcharge for development residents, up to 25 percent of property values, if the development were to be annexed into the Solon city limits in the future and needed upgrades to comply with Solon standards. Solon council member Dan O’Neil said he was concerned about passing those costs along to Solon taxpayers.

“We don’t want to have an outlier in there,” Mr. O’Neil said. “My concern would be (that) we could have that covered. I just don’t think it’s right for our current taxpayers to be paying to bring a new development up to city standard.”

Matt Adam, one of the project’s developers, objected to the surcharge proposal, saying he didn’t believe prospective homeowners would purchase lots under those conditions.

“It seems like most of the concerns are based on the assumption that this property might be annexed (into Solon) in the future,” Mr. Adam said. “I appreciate that. But I really don’t think (it’s going) to happen. We’re coming up with a solution in search of a problem … I read the agreement that you’re proposing, and unfortunately we can’t agree to that, because what that’s going to do is make the lots virtually unsellable. If you’re the buyer of one of these lots, and this agreement is placed, it’s going to state that you as the buyer, someday in the future, are going to have to write a blank check to the city of Solon if it’s ever annexed. They’re just not going to do that. We won’t be able to sell these lots with that blank check out there.”

Kevin O’Brien, whose family has owned the planned development property for generations, said he felt the new development, whether annexed into Solon or not, would provide a significant economic benefit for the city.

“I reviewed (your) suggestions, and it does make it undevelopable,” Mr. O’Brien said. “I’m here to appeal to your better nature. We think we’ve done everything by the rules, and we want a quality product. I’m just asking that you allow us to do this, as propose, because I think it’s going to be a huge benefit for the city of Solon.”

The resolution approved Oct. 6 will be treated as advisory by county officials. A formal Oak Meadow development plan is expected to be presented to county officials for consideration later this year.