River Walk

Chagrin Falls Village Council fast-tracked the sale of the village-owned West Orange Street properties Monday by approving a purchase agreement with developer Robert J. Vitt as emergency legislation.

Robert Vitt's Silver Leaf development company has started construction on a condominium development on West Orange Street. The Mitchells' home sits on a crest on top of a hill that slopes down to that development.… The family has been forced to move from their home because it is sliding down the hill and has been deemed unsafe to live in.

A tour of the home Monday showed wide and deep cracks across the basement floor extending up the face of the fireplace and exterior walls. Also on the basement level, a bedroom floor slopes steeply and has sunk below the bathroom and closet area, which have separated from the bedroom at their thresholds.

Some neighbors are unhappy with the West Orange Street project, alleging that the construction has caused the slope west of the development to shift, damaging their homes located just above River Walk.

Results of the geotechnical soils tests begun last fall on the West Orange Street site of the River Walk townhome development have yet to be shared with Chagrin Falls officials, village Engineer Timothy Lannon said Monday. The findings were to have been released early this year, but the builder-owner of the property, Robert Vitt, of Silver Leaf Development, has not released them to his office, Mr. Lannon told Village Council.

When a second “impartial” geotechnical engineering study was conducted, it also concluded the development company and its engineering firm did not do enough testing and analysis on the hillside or consider possible risks posed by the project on neighboring “uphill properties” or the danger of structural damage should the slope move….

Along with extensive questioning regarding Vitt’s intentions for securing the slope, council expressed concerns over configuration of the third, east-facing Phase II home, which has West Orange Street to its side. Council President Steve Patton said he felt the home seemed “jammed” into the property, and made for a less-than-desirable entrance to the village.

Mr. Piunno said it was nothing he or his brother did to their property to create the problem in which he holds the village responsible. “You guys technically started it” when the village approved the development, he said. “Now we need assurance the retaining wall will work. … We don’t want to fight you, sue you or go to Channel 3.”

River Walk developer Robert Vitt wants to build two condominiums and a single family home that are higher than current standards. The West Orange Street variances are against the 35-foot-height limit. Mr. Vitt is proposing a building height of 46 feet. He is also asking for 60 percent front yard driveway coverage which exceeds the 25 percent limit.

Applicant West Cottage LLC has requested a variance for a front yard setback of 22 feet for a new home against the required setback of 35 feet. The second variance requested for 24.5 percent lot coverage of the main building against the code limit is 20 feet.

Some people have stated that the movement of the slope during the first phase of River Walk construction is the reason the foundation of the original house at 47 West Cottage Street failed and became unsafe. The family was forced to move out and the house was demolished by order of the village. The owners sued Mr. Vitt and won a $500,000 settlement which included Mr. Vitt taking possession of the now vacant lot at the precipice of the hill.

Construction of a retaining wall behind the second phase of the River Walk development on West Orange Street has been delayed due to confusion over who will be responsible for future maintenance and repair. … “Who takes responsibility after you are gone?” Councilman Thomas Muscenti asked. “I don’t know,” Mr. Vitt answered during the council meeting.