April 17, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria Council revisits golf club project

ELYRIA — The Spring Valley housing development project that was billed as a baby boomer’s paradise doesn’t seem to go away, even though after four years of planning not one house has been built.

At this point, there are a lot of questions as to whether the homes that owner and developer Bob Corna said he would construct on the property will ever take shape. But Corna, who has come under intense scrutiny in recent years and has been the subject of a number of lawsuits, stayed true to his plan Monday as he argued for yet another conditional use permit before City Council.

“I am not selling this project,” Corna said. “I am doing this project. Realistically, no one has the vision to do this type of project but me. I believe people will move here and it will be the greatest economic boom to the city in 35 years.”

The permit Corna needs will allow him to build cluster homes in the area that is currently zoned to support residential detached homes. Corna has requested and been approved for similar conditional-use permits in the past, but he has to come back to Council each time he tweaks his plans.

But the number of small changes has many wondering if the project is worth continuing and if Corna is the right guy for the job.

“Personally, I think what we got here is a person with a dream. He wants to get everything changed around so he can sell it to someone else,” said Councilman Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward. “I think the time and the spinning of our wheels are getting us nowhere. There is nothing going on out there.”

Corna blamed the delay on the deteriorating market for new golf courses and new housing as well as the recession that swept the country since he bought the property. The overall dream of the project — small home with golf course views for older adults — has not changed, although Corna has abandoned plans for the development of hundreds of homes and an assisting living facility. He now thinks 174 homes will be sufficient.

“But I think if people could get out of the monster homes they raised their kids in that are heat guzzlers and tax guzzlers, they would look for something that still offers them a good quality of life,” Corna said.

Still, Councilman Mark Craig, I-4th Ward, said he cannot ignore the increasing number of lawsuits against Corna and the original corporation that was attached to the project or the fact that Corna is now using Black River LLC as the backer of the property.

Craig and Tanner were the only Council members to vote against the issuance of the permit. Councilman Vic Stewart, D-at large, abstained from the vote due to a conflict of interest.

Law Director Scott Serazin said he was likewise concerned about the lawsuits, unanswered engineering questions and whether there was enough financing to bring the project to fruition. But he was comfortable with the issuance of the conditional-use permit because there are plenty of steps in between now and building that will allow for some of those answers to be fleshed out.

“This is a long way away of ever becoming a reality based on the plans now,” Serazin said.

Mayor Holly Brinda, who serves as chairwoman of the Planning Commission, said one of the reasons the project has taken so long is the fact that the Planning Commission wanted to do its due diligence.

“We feel as though at this point Mr. Corna has answered our concerns,” she said. “Are there other concerns? Yes, but those will be discussed in a different arena.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.