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Akron Council OKs Rockynol project permit

7/24/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

Use of Mull Avenue raises concerns among neighbors

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Following a public hearing July 21, Akron City Council approved a conditional-use permit request for the construction of an assisted-living facility at Rockynol, 1150 W. Market St.

There was both support for and opposition to the project voiced at the public hearing. Objections to the project stem from a plan to locate an access drive for Rockynol residents on Mull Avenue between Orchard Road and West Exchange Street.

Council approved the conditional-use permit after Rockynol officials agreed the residential access would be only temporary for the duration of the construction, which will necessitate the closing of the main West Market Street entrance.

Construction is expected to begin this fall and last two years on the project to build the three-story building consisting of 60 single-occupancy rooms. The building will replace the 64-room West Tower, which will be demolished and the current residents relocated to the new building.

Rockynol Executive Director Kara Hanzie said the West Tower, with its too-small, pie-shaped rooms and bathrooms, no longer serves the needs of an aging population, and many families have chosen newer facilities outside of Akron.

“We want to have a competitive building that meets the needs of our residents along with giving them excellent care,” she said.

Neighbors who spoke in opposition at the public hearing support the new building but voiced concerns over the use of Mull Avenue.

Charles Zindle, who formerly lived on South Rose Boulevard, said more than 50 residents signed a petition opposing a permanent residents’ entrance being established on Mull Avenue and asking Rockynol to honor a “covenant” made in 1986 not to use the entrance on Mull Avenue for anything other than access for emergency vehicles.

Zindle stated his main concern is for children who frequently play in the otherwise unused portion of the road.

He said residents of the area have been trying to get that portion of Mull Avenue closed for decades.

“That road is dangerous; it’s narrow,” said William Forman, who lives on West Exchange Street. He said two cars could not fit on the road together.

He added service trucks use the road as early as 4 a.m., disturbing him and his neighbors.

Andy Huck, with JMM Architects, said it was a misconception that there were plans to open up Mull Avenue all the way to Orchard Road, where there currently is a temporary roadblock, and, in fact, there are plans for a more permanent roadblock to be constructed.

Four Rockynol residents spoke in support of the project and of an entrance on Mull Avenue.

Velma Pomrenke, a resident of Rockynol for five months, said she still drives and hopes to for some time, but she would be grateful for the chance to use Mull Avenue and not have to make a left turn onto West Market Street, where there is no traffic signal.

“For safety purposes, and for our well-being, Mull Avenue is a much better and much easier egress area,” said Bill Smith.

Hanzie noted that 37 Rockynol residents currently drive, and the majority of them don’t drive every day.

“So the traffic flow would be minimal,” she said.

After the vote, Councilwoman Marilyn Keith (D-Ward 8), in whose ward Rockynol is situated, said the Mull Avenue concerns are a “temporary stumbling block” and she didn’t want to lose sight of the building project that will serve residents.

“This reflects growth,” she said, pointing to a rendering of the project. “It reflects a community that cares about our residents here.”

Councilman Mike Freeman (D-Ward 9) said he had driven the roadway that afternoon and suggested the line of sight would be improved if there could be an effort made to “kind of cut down the small jungles” growing along both sides of the road. Council President Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10) asked Keith to look into who would be responsible.

Councilman Michael Williams (D-at large) added he would like to see a permanent resolution to the use of that section of Mull Avenue and that he hopes Rockynol officials will be responsive to neighbors’ complaints about the noise created as a result of the use of that roadway as a service entrance.

In other business, Council approved two pieces of legislation pertaining to the redevelopment of Canal Square. Council approved the vacation of Water Street between West State and West Bowery streets and West Center Street between Water Street and the Ohio & Erie Canal. Council also approved a lease agreement between the city and the developer. Rent will be $4,800 per year.

The vacation and lease will allow for additional parking for Canal Square tenants and support the redevelopment of the office portion of the building.

Planning Committee Chairman Jeff Fusco (D-at large) said Canal Place is “one of Akron’s favorite older buildings.”

He added, “This is an important piece of Downtown Akron, as well as downtown history.”

Also at the meeting, Councilwoman Linda Omobien (D-at large) announced grants are available for low-income homeowners to address lead-based paint hazards in residences built before 1978 through the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control program available via Summit County Public Health. Summit County homes must have a pregnant woman or a child younger than 6 in the residence or serve as a child care location for a child younger than 6. Income guidelines apply.

To apply, call 330-643-8013 or visit www.scphoh.org and choose “Healthy Homes” from the Program Listing drop-down menu.

The next Akron City Council meeting will take place July 28 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers. In August, Council will break for summer recess, returning to its regular meeting schedule after Labor Day.

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