NORTH CANTON  There are still a lot of questions about the future when it comes to zoning for the Fieldcrest property.

Concerns have been raised about the 50.25 acre property, which is located on Easthill (55th Street Southeast) because it is zoned (R-70) single residential. A lengthy presentation and discussion took place prior to the Dec. 11 council meeting.

ZONING DISTRICT

In June, the property owner along with Northstar Planning presented the city a new base zoning district to address the mix of land use.

North Canton Mayor David Held said the city knew it had to adjust the zoning to fit the vision Fieldcrest has for the property. He said within the city’s zoning code there isn't method to properly identify Fieldcrest, which is in a residential area but the property includes a shop, bed and breakfast and it hosts various events throughout the year.

"They have been very willing partners with the city," Held said. "We want to continue to partner with them."

Held said Fieldcrest would like to expand, but it would like to be in compliance with the city’s zoning code. Held said it is all about doing this right for not only Fieldcrest, but also for the residents, some of whom have raised concerns about future uses of the property.

In November, the city hired Calfee Zoning to look at the property and help the city determine what the best direction would be moving forward. Sean Suder, the founder of the company and former chief council for land use and planning for the city of Cincinnati, said he was hired to review the proposal brought forward for the property.

"I see this as an opportunity for the city and the property owner to come together and get this right for the future," Suder said.

Suder said he never heard of the Fieldcrest property prior to this proposal, but said it is a unique asset for the region with great history. He said he wants to see consistency with the zoning code and the zoning should respect the existing surroundings.

Fieldcrest submitted a proposal to the city, which was approved by the planning commission, but never acted on by council. Held said the proposal was much broader and the residents and city had concerns.

The city has been hesitant to just change the zoning of the property because if it were sold in the future, a new owner could make changes to what is on that property. Any changes could be critical considering the property is surrounded by residential houses.

Suder also raised concerns about adding permitted uses to property and just how many permitted uses would it take to cover what Fieldcrest does.

"I don’t know what the right or wrong answer is," Suder said. "I do know that the zoning should help guide the city in making those determinations and provide clarity to the community what could happen."

Held said the city decided to turn to an expert because there really was no one on the city’s staff that had the knowledge of how to handle a situation like this.

RECOMMENDATION

Suder recommends keeping the R-70 zoning and adding an overlay called the Fieldcrest Historic District. He said by keeping the R-70 zoning it will help the area remain consistent and not put a different zone in the middle of a residential area.

Suder also said the overlay would address specific uses for the property and can place regulations about building placement on the site if future growth were to occur. Ward 3 Council Member Stephanie Werren said she wants to see the details for buildings spilled out in the overlay. She said if people hear hotel, bed and breakfast they are going to think the Hilton is going to be built on the property.

Plans could be drafted in January and sent to the planning commission and then to council in February if the city is in favor of this direction, Suder said. Members of council raised concerns about cost for this work. Suder said a lot would go into determining the cost, but he said he would be happy to prepare an estimate.

Fieldcrest officials though weren’t ready to act on the proposed overlay during the December meeting, saying they didn’t have time to digest what was in the proposal. Fieldcrest officials are expected to speak during the public hearing.

Mark Majewski of Northstar Planning told council to keep an open mind and that there is more than one way to reach an objective goal. He stressed that the goal is to keep Fieldcrest preserved. Majewski said he wants to see the issues get resolved and for it not to drag out another six months or a year.

"If we sat down, there is a middle ground here, without writing an entire ordinance," Majewski said. 

Held said city council is expected to vote down the proposal brought forward by Fieldcrest and come up with a more suitable proposal. The proposal would then go to the planning commission before coming to council.

Council has set a public hearing to discuss the matter more 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16 in council chambers.

HISTORY OF THE PROPERTY

Fieldcrest was formerly owned by Herbert William Hoover, who was unrelated to the former U.S. president of the same name, and was known as the Hoover Farm according to the Fieldcrest website. The farm was a dairy farm and sold bottles of milk.

The original 1904 farmhouse is the current Tea House on the property and the chicken coop has been transformed into a gift shop, which opened in 2015. A familiar spot on the property is the lodge, which was constructed in 1925 is home to Sunday brunches, meetings and events. Also the property features an inn, which was known as the Hoover House and was moved to the Fieldcrest property in 1988. It features eight bedrooms, private bathrooms, a common living room, dining room and a game room, which is available for rent.