Upkeep of planned River Walk wall in limbo

By Barbara Christian
Jul 1, 2015

CHAGRIN FALLS – 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.

The question was raised at the June 22 Village Council meeting during a discussion with developer Robert Vitt about whether to allow underground footers to be planted one foot into the village right-of-way.

The proposed legislation called for maintenance to be the responsibility of the homeowners’ association, a group that the developer says does not exist for phase two of the project. So, council decided not to vote on the matter until there was clarity.

Action on this matter is tied to a case pending in Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court that has set a July 9 deadline for an agreement to be reached on the wall.

Mr. Vitt explained that the first phase of the project that includes six townhome condominiums has an association. But the second phase that includes the retaining wall and privately owned single family homes does not.

“Six condo owners cannot properly maintain it (retaining wall) on their own,” Mr. Vitt said.

Village Law Director Stephen Byron said confusion in the differences between the two phases led to the mistake in the legislation.

“Who takes responsibility after you are gone?” Councilman Thomas Muscenti asked. “I don’t know,” Mr. Vitt answered during the council meeting.

With the ownership issue in limbo, Mr. Vitt said he would have engineers recalculate the hillside property to determine if the desired slope stability factor could be achieved without the wall.

Councilwoman Janna Lutz said “a wall is better than no wall, so how do we get that to happen?”

In the best interest of that neighborhood, she said “we need to change the language of the agreement and see a wall go up.”

Some council members were unhappy with design changes to the wall which will stand 11 feet above curb level, about 4-feet shorter than the original plan.

Mr. Muscenti said he was not comfortable with the changes and asked that the village engineer to sign off on the wall plan before he would vote on the agreement.

“I need to hear from the engineer first,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do. This project has been an issue for the neighbors and I don’t want to see it be an issue for the village.”

Councilman James Newell agreed that “the village needs some guarantee of future responsibility so this does not fall on the village and taxpayers.”

River Walk was begun almost six years ago, but problems arose when one West Summit Street property above the development showed signs of slippage and cracks appeared in the walls and foundation of the home which the village later ordered demolished.

The homeowners successfully sued Mr. Vitt’s Silverleaf Development Co. and received a cash settlement with Mr. Vitt taking ownership of the lot on which he plans to build a single family home.

Since then, the owners of three adjacent homes have filed suit claiming damage to their properties.

According to Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court records, a tentative settlement was reached on June 22, but is tied to council’s approval and ultimate construction of the retaining wall or unspecified “alternative plan.”

The court set a July 9 deadline for submission of a design for the wall accompanied by a geothechnical engineering report.

"Upkeep of planned River Walk wall in limbo". Chagrin Valley Times. Retrieved December 28, 2019.

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