MANSFIELD — Mansfield City Council will likely soon vote on a rezoning request allowing for a housing development at the former Dawson Ridge Par & Pub golf course.
If so, it already knows the residents in the area have put away the 3-wood and are using the driver in their opposition.
Several City Council members sat in the back on Tuesday during a two-hour city planning commission meeting that sought permission to rezone the 86-acre, former 9-hole course.
They saw council chambers filled with residents from the northeast Mansfield neighborhood that borders Madison Township.
These residents showed up in force to unanimously oppose a plan by a Florida-based investor to build up to 300 new doublewide mobile homes on the site.
Council members also saw the commission vote unanimously to reject the rezoning request, a recommendation that will be sent to City Council.
The residents sat patiently while the commission spent an hour on other topics.
When it was their turn to speak, they unloaded on developer Nathan Whittaker’s plan to build what he called a “manufactured housing community” in a community he said was in “‘massive” need of affordable housing.
The houses, which the Ocala, Fla., man said look nothing like traditional mobile homes, will sell for between $70,000 and $90,000, which is what he said he pays for them.
Whittaker, who recently purchased three mobile home parks in Mansfield and Madison Township that he is working to revitalize, claimed to have a “waiting list” of 600 buyers wanting to purchase one of his homes.
He said his plan would develop less than half the property, leaving intact 50 acres of grass, trees and creeks.
“We’ll keep all the rolling hills. We’ll put homes where there’s flat ground,” he said.
Whitaker has a plan to purchase the land from long-time Mansfield resident Delbert Dawson if the property can be rezoned to mobile home park district (MH) from its current status of residential 2 at at the corner of Grace Street and Von Hoff Boulevard.
Dawson, along with his wife, Doris, bought the former Coolridge Golf Course in 2016 and operated it until the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic finished off the business last year.
Dawson attended the meeting Tuesday and told residents in attendance he has “tried to be a good neighbor” and believes Whittaker’s plan will be good for the area.
“Don’t condemn something before you give it a chance,” he said. “These are not trailers.”
Dawson also told them he has had other offers on the property. Whittaker said the property as currently zoned could be developed with duplex residences that could be rented, rather than purchased, as they would under his plan.
Residents listened to the proposal and then pounced, though planning commission leader David Remy limited the number of speakers to six.
They expressed concerns about things like an increase of vehicle traffic in the neighborhood; inadequate water and sewer lines to service such a large development; potential for increased crime; and a desire to keep the rolling hills, ponds and trees intact.
Michigan Avenue resident Annette Windsor said she was concerned people buying the homes would not be able to afford their mortgages.
“Then we’re gonna have all of these dilapidated trailer parks that we already have,” she said. “He’s going to build a housing allotment that nobody can afford.”
Mike Beretta, who said he was president of the area’s Neighborhood Watch, told commission members the area was the lowest in the city in terms of crime.
He said 300 homes likely meant around 1,200 new residents and expressed concern the development would result in increased security problems. Beretta suggested Whittaker take his plans to some place like the former Westinghouse properties in Mansfield.
Von Hoff Boulevard resident Roger Stone said the manufactured homes would depreciate in value over the years and questioned what the properties would be worth in 25 years.
Grace Street resident Patrick Beaver questioned if current water and sewer infrastructure could handle the new development. Remy said the city is spending $30 million to improve its water treatment plant.
“Well, you better hurry,” Beaver said, “because your water is getting terrible.”
Resident Bethany Cuthbertson told the commission she has lived within a mile of the golf course her entire life, “but I will leave this community” if the development goes forward.
She presented the commission with a petition done via Change.org that she said contained the signatures of 420 residents opposed to the development.
Pamela Sellers, who lives on 8th Avenue, also expressed concerns about water/sewer infrastructure and also a lack of information about the proposal.
“The community is not being informed that this is going on and there is a lot of upfront work that has to be done even before you build one house, let alone 300,” Sellers said. “You should let people know what is going on so at least people can make an informed decision.”
Before voting, commission members asked Whittaker and Dawson, co-signers on the rezoning request, if they wanted to withdraw the request and take more time to work with residents on the plan.
Whittaker said he was willing to work with residents on the plan, including redrawing his plans, but said he wanted to have the commission’s vote.
Dawson said, “I will not withdraw. You guys have been kinda short with me a little bit.”
The commission is required by law to present its recommendation to City Council within 30 days of the hearing. Council must then set a date for a public hearing and make its decision within 60 days of that hearing.
Council’s acceptance or rejection of the request must be agreed upon by “not less than 3/4 of the full membership of council,” which means six members must agree.
Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership. Learn more about Newsroom Partnerships.
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