HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — A developer and onetime Highland Heights resident presented to City Council Tuesday (Sept. 22) a plan to build as many as 44 homes on the Maypine Farms property.
Russell Berzin, now a Gates Mills resident who heads Franklyn Development Co., said he is interested in building on lots that would measure from 14,000-18,000 square feet homes that would sell in the range of $450,000-$500,00, with some perhaps costing $600,000. The proposed lot sizes are less than the three-quarters of an acre the city requires in that zoning area, meaning voters would have to approve of the change. The farm is zoned for single-family homes.
Mayor Chuck Brunello, Jr. who attended the City Council Committee-of-the-Whole meeting at which Berzin presented, said that the developer has not yet taken formal steps to proceed with the housing plan. “He’s getting the temperature of council right now,” Brunello said.
Until a couple of years ago, the farm was used for horse riding and training. Its barn, still standing, housed horses. The farm includes a large outdoor riding area and an indoor riding area.
The approximately seven-acre property also includes two small cottages and a large home. The home is located just over the border, in Willoughby Hills.
Berzin said the site is owned by fellow Gates Mills resident Dick Bass, who grew up on the property and whose family has owned it for decades, dating to the 1930s. Bass sold another portion of nearby property that has since been made into the Maypine Farm Estates.
The farm property is located off White Road, just west of I-271. Berzin, during a phone call with cleveland.com, said that the property was mapped out for a housing development in 2002 when it featured 21 lots that met the current zoning requirement. He said that in the years since, the increased cost of developing the site, and the price the seller would be seeking for the property, made it necessary to increase the number of homes and thus, decrease the lot sizes. He said that, unless the lot sizes are reduced, he believes the property would be more difficult to be developed as someone would have to take a greater risk.
“The goal of a developer, and I think a community, is not to have vacant lots sit for years and years,” he said.
“I took the 21 homes plotted and cut (lots) in half,” he said. “It won’t (likely) be 44 lots. It’ll probably be more like 40.” He said that the lots, under his plan, would be divided into various shapes. Another consideration is the site’s nearness to the freeway, where homes would sell for less.
Berzin has much experience building homes and condominiums. He started at age 26 building the Franklyn Commons Condominiums off Euclid Avenue in Willoughby, and has also built the New Haven Colony and Chesapeake Cove in Painesville Township, Parsons Glen in Willoughby, Kittery Cove and Whaler’s Cove in Mentor, and several others. He spent several years building in Florida before returning to northeast Ohio to raise his children. Berzin lived in Highland Heights from 1979 to 2004.
“There were no votes taken, it was an informational presentation,” Berzin said of addressing the council committee. “I would hope that they agree with the premise that the land is better served with homes on it.”
Berzin also referred to talk that a new I-271 interchange has been discussed for the White Road area and that such a vacant property could be one upon which the state seeks to build that interchange. The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency is now in the process of drafting policy for eight new northeast Ohio interchanges.
“I don’t know if that’s (an interchange) going to happen, but if I were living in Maypine (Farm Estates) I would certainly rather see housing there.”
“It’s already zoned residential,” Brunello said. “So there’s not really a whole lot that can go back there. My opinion is that I’d rather see something there than nothing. I’d rather not look at a vacant piece of land with a dilapidated barn sitting on it. That’s my thought on it. And the (proposed) houses would be nice.”
There are no plans as of now for Berzin and the city to take the next step in furthering the proposed project.
Trick or treat
Brunello said he has yet to decide whether the city will proceed with door-to-door trick or treating on Oct. 31, but said that the city’s annual Halloween party for children will be held, in a slightly altered form.
The party is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 10 at Highland Heights Community Park, off Wilson Mills Road. Featured will be a maze through which families, in costume, can walk to find candy treats. The party won’t include events such as hayrides, as in the past, to allow for social distancing.
“I’m hoping to do trick-or-treating, and I’d like to work with Mayfield Village and Mayfield Heights in putting something together,” he said.
Diamond One upgrades
The city is planning to make upgrades at baseball Diamond No. One at Highland Heights Community Park.
“Diamond One is going to get a complete overhaul,” Brunello said. “It is one of the original ballfields in the park, and it’s been the most neglected ballfield in the park. When it rains, it’s under water for days. We’re looking to enhance it so we can get the most use possible from it.”
Added will be new drainage, fences around the diamond (not in the outfield), and concrete work. Diamond One is the largest of the park’s seven diamonds. Brunello said the city is looking at spending $35,000-$50,000 on Diamond One upgrades.
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