Merriman Valley zoning code proposed

AKRON/CUYAHOGA FALLS — The cities of Akron and Cuyahoga Falls have developed a proposed zoning code for the Merriman Valley and Schumacher neighborhoods.
This code focuses on existing development and land uses for Akron and Cuyahoga Falls areas, which have different zoning regulations and irregular boundaries.
Akron officials said the form-based zoning code being proposed for the area specifies requirements for the physical character and layout of the built environment rather than focusing on the separation of land and buildings such as residential versus commercial.
City of Akron Planner Daniel DeAngelo said form-based zoning codes are used throughout the country and are gaining momentum. He said Akron currently has one form-based zoning code on Kenmore Boulevard and another is being worked on for East Market Street.
DeAngelo said the form-based zoning code is more compatible for mixed uses such as one where there is retail on the ground floor with offices or residential above the retail. He also said the current code is based around getting to places by car rather than by biking or walking. Form-based codes also require parking to be behind buildings or on the side rather than in the front of a building.
The form-based zoning includes the following zoning designations: conservation neighborhood, neighborhood, neighborhood flex, mixed use, mixed use shopfront and mixed use flex.
“We are excited about it [the form-based code],” DeAngelo said. “This moves the valley towards the master plan.”
He added the new code also has diagrams and tables, which are easier for the public to understand.
“Under the current code a lot of things could get built that people don’t want,” DeAngelo said.
Highlights of the master plan include: neighborhoods that are more walkable and equitable; a business district that serves as a gateway to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park; protection of the environment through conservation neighborhoods; habitat corridors and riparian setbacks; and improving transportation systems for all users by increasing safety and reducing congestion.
According to the plan, conservation neighborhoods respect natural land features, have open space minimums, include a mix of dwelling types, are pedestrian friendly and have trail connectivity. DeAngelo said the conservation neighborhoods help achieve the goal of having more greenspace, which is something the community has asked for. He added there are several undeveloped sites within the master plan area where conservation neighborhoods could be built.
DeAngelo said the city really looked at neighborhoods that work such as Highland Square, Kenmore Boulevard and Aster Avenue to create places people want to go and spend time.
Diana Colavecchio, community development director for Cuyahoga Falls, said one the most significant changes for Cuyahoga Falls is at the intersection of Northampton Road and Portage Trail Extension. The plan includes mixed use centers that are walkable from residential development, have active first floors, buildings that are closer to the street and parking located to the side or screened from view. She added there is no sewer at the intersection yet.
A new addition to the plan includes a 50-foot scenic buffer overlay to enhance the view along major thoroughfares such as Portage Trail West and of Akron Peninsula Road.
DeAngelo said he feels like there has been a positive response to the code and a lot more people are supportive.
“The public for the most part is pleased,” Colavecchio said. “Residents and business owners should come to the public meetings to stay involved in the process and progress made.”
In Akron the zoning code will come before the Akron Planning Commission Aug. 23 before coming to Akron City Council.
Colavecchio said the draft zoning code was presented during a July Planning Commission meeting but will not be voted on by Council until September. She said this gives the public an opportunity to comment on the code. Cuyahoga Falls City Council will also hold a public hearing on the code following the consideration by the Planning Commission.
The draft zoning code can be viewed at www.akronohio.gov/cms/site/0e9b61c524339d78/index.html.
In Akron comments on the code may be emailed to ValleyPlan@akronohio.gov or by calling 330-375-2090. In Cuyahoga Falls email development@cityofcf.com or call 330-971-8135.