NORTH CANTON  Finding a proper way to zone the Fieldcrest Estate remains a work in progress.

North Canton City Council held a public hearing Jan. 16 to allow residents to speak for or against the plan brought forward by Fieldcrest to rezone the property. Council chambers was packed with people wishing to speak during the 1 1/2 hour public hearing.

Months of discussion have taken place regarding the 50-acre property which hosts events, has a restaurant, gift shop and a lodge. The estate on Easthill Street Southeast is zoned (R-70) single residential, but doesn’t comply with the zoning code and the city doesn’t have a classification in the code for that type of property.

The hearing comes as council must either accept or deny the recommendation made by the Planning Commission that would create a new zoning designation called the Fieldcrest District. North Canton hired an outside firm, Calfee Zoning, to help assist the city on how to move forward. Calfee recommended the city deny the proposal brought forward by Fieldcrest and to keep the property zoned R-70 with an overlay district.

Owner voices support

Mark Majewski of Northstar Planning, who is representing Fieldcrest, went over the proposal drawn up to rezone the property during the public hearing. Majewski said he asked twice to meet with North Canton Mayor David Held and city officials about the matter, but he said the mayor respectfully refused both times.

"He said he has already made up his mind and was afraid what would happen to him politically if he changed his mind after meeting with us," Majewski said.

Held jumped in said he didn’t say that.

"For the record, I did not say political, and you know that," Held said.

Majewski said he won’t play "he said". Majewski said his goal was to hopefully change a few minds. Property owner Sally Dale purchased Fieldcrest in 2004 and hopes to continue to preserve the property and protect it from residential development.

Majewski stressed how large the property is and how expensive it is to maintain. Expanding will be key to keeping the business operating, he said. In addition, he said the owners want to bring current uses and future uses in compliance with the zoning code.

"We spent a lot of time determining how to be a good neighbor," Majewski said.

He pointed out the setbacks from neighbors and how Fieldcrest intends to keep 50 percent of the land as open space.

The city had approved a conditional use permit in 2006, which has expired.

Majewski said it couldn’t be further from the truth that Fieldcrest would become the next Cedar Point.

He also raised he has serious doubts about the fairness of the report prepared by Calfee.

Fieldcrest hopes to continue to work with city council, the mayor and city administration to work together to amend what has been presented.

"We ask you work with us rather than starting over," Majewski said.

Residents speak

Residents spoke on both sides of the issue giving city council arguments from both sides of why to support the plan or to deny it.

Those in favor called the property a "diamond in the rough," saying it's a property that attracts people from all over the country.

Resident Chuck Osborne, however, voiced his concern that Fieldcrest officials got to speak again. He said they have spent hours talking to the city and that North Canton officials should know their position.

Osborne said North Canton Law Director Timothy Fox told Fieldcrest officials to write their own zoning code. Fox denied he ever said that. Osborne said he has video proof of Fox saying that.

Osborne said the city needs to protect the residents and deny the proposal.

"Please protect all we have left in this city, residential properties," Osborne said. "Don’t do this to those people."

Residents also raised concerns about stormwater issues and if Fieldcrest continues to grow, they questioned whether those issues will worsen. Also, many residents asked to see a more clear plan of what Fieldcrest officials have planned for the property.

Moving forward

Council member Stephanie Werren said she has talked to many residents about the issue. She said both the city and Fieldcrest officials have to work together to find a solution. Werren added both parties have spent a lot of money to this point.

Members of council suggested putting Northstar Planning and Calfee Zoning in a room and letting them draw up a plan together.

Held said he was happy to hear from so many residents during the public hearing.

"I think really this is something we can agree on," Held said.

Held said a lot of things could happen under a new set of rules and he doesn’t want to see the zoning process be rushed.

"I’m ok with spending more money if we do it right," Held said. "Lets take a step back."

Council will discuss the issue further during the next committee meeting, 7 p.m. Feb. 5.