Developer withholds data on hillside soils

Barbara Christian
Apr 25, 2012

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. "We can't force them," he said.

Chagrin Falls Law Director Stephen Byron agreed. Mr. Vitt and Silver Leaf "have no legal obligation to show it to us," he said.

Mr. Lannon, of CT Consultants, said test results must be released to the village at some point, because they are crucial to the design of a retaining wall for the next phase of the development. That retaining structure must be approved by the village engineer before the next phase can proceed, he said.

Village Administrator Benjamin Himes told council there is no reason to believe that Mr. Vitt does not plan to complete his development.

While Mr. Byron noted there is an expiration date on Mr. Vitt's building permit, Mr. Himes said it would lapse only if the developer stops work, and that has not happened. Interior work in the existing townhome buildings is ongoing, he said.

Mr. Lannon said, while his office has not seen plans for the next phase of River Walk, Mr. Vitt has filed plans for the front retaining wall and landscaping for the existing townhomes.

Mr. Himes speculated that the holdup in releasing the soils study to the village may have something to do with a pending lawsuit brought by West Cottage Street homeowners David and Terry Mitchell.

That lawsuit is scheduled to begin Sept. 10, following a pretrial hearing in August. According to the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, subpoenas were served to various parties late last month.

According to the Mitchells' lawsuit, excavation of the West Orange Street hillside below their West Cottage Street home caused their foundation and walls to split apart.

The couple moved out of the home a year ago, when they were advised that it was no longer safe. The village subsequently ordered the home demolished. That order also is pending because of the trial.

The soils testing was ordered by the village as a result of the Mitchells' claims. They testing was done and analyzed by an independent geotechnical engineering firm at the developer's expense.

Resident George White, a neighbor of the Mitchells on West Cottage Street, told council it appears that the undeveloped hillside is eroding further.

Mr. Byron responded, "It is speculation to think something adverse will happen there." He added, "We simply don't know."

Mr. White also asked council what happened to the idea discussed last year of building a temporary retaining wall as a stopgap measure for securing the vacant hillside. He received no answer.

"Developer withholds data on hillside soils". Chagrin Valley Times. Retrieved December 28, 2019.

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