Zoning hearing set for February 4, on proposed Oak Street Development in Loveland

By Chuck Gibson 

LOVELAND – Plans for development and design of a proposed 64 unit multi-family development at Oak Street and Second Street in Loveland hinge on a Tuesday, February 4, Loveland Planning and Zoning Commission hearing. 

Oak Street and Second Street is site for proposed development plan (Photo By Chuck Gibson) 

Hanging in the balance is approval of a request by developers Hunt & Whitacker for zoning change from the current designation of Residential-Medium Density (R-MD) to a designation of Special Planning District (SPD).  The proposed development was already found to meet a standard set out in specific zoning language which calls for:

 “Lands which permit for ingenuity, imagination, and design efforts on the part of builders, architects, site planners, and developers that can produce residential developments which are in keeping with overall land use intensity and open space objectives of the Comprehensive Plan while departing from the strict application of use, setback, height, and minimum lot size requirements contained in the Zoning Code.”  – Loveland Planning and Zoning Commission, Memorandum 10.1, January 7, 2019.

Ingenious and imaginative design efforts is exactly what the design firm of Sabo Design Associates and developers have in mind for the proposed Oak Street and Second Street project with approval of the requested SPD zoning. Rod Sabo is principal of the design firm based in Loveland on Wards Corner Road. He is the designer, but not a licensed  architect, and not the developer or property owner for the proposed site. As a Loveland business owner, and resident, Sabo knows well the importance of aesthetics and issues for the community.

“Schools, taxes, traffic are issues we understand,” said Sabo. “We’re providing alternatives for those that will make this thing a positive development.”

These are the first steps toward approval for a Special Planned District. From the outset, city leaders made it clear support for the project was dependent upon a development which would provide an “active audience to support downtown business” without adding a burden on parking or traffic flow. They expect to attract tenants who are empty-nesters and young professionals, not necessarily growing families with school age kids. That lends itself to no additional school burden, people heading out via Wards Corner and Loveland Madeira Road for their interstate commute to work, no traffic flowing into downtown Loveland.

Sabo Design Associates Madison Road- Oakley development project (Provided)

“The whole concept of what we’re doing is to provide future customers to support business down there,” said Sabo. Then, drawing on his experience as a member of the development task force for the City of Newport, noted the desire for day and evening activity. “You don’t want people coming in the evening and not supporting business during the day. You want day/evening activity there. That is successful development.”

It has been well documented all over social media sites. The plan calls for 64 units spread over four buildings with parking below the buildings. Critics, including an online petition against the proposal, immediately voiced concerns about “overdevelopment” and how it would not fit, would not blend with historic Loveland, will add traffic problems, and burden the school system. Robin Scanlon resides across from the proposed site development and has expressed her concerns.

“How will it fit,” Scanlon asked. “How are they going to widen Oak Street? I like the historic homes around us. That house (already on the land) can be fixed up.”

Proposed Oak Street site offers great views overlooking Loveland (Photo By Chuck Gibson)

Preliminary Drawing Oak Street Development plan (Provided) 

Scanlon has lived in Historic Loveland for just over five years. She doesn’t like the way the Loveland Station development looks and does not want to see another development like it. Sabo has been in business 31 years as a design architect. He has designed homes all around the Loveland community including in the Oasis and Miami Trails residential developments along with his own office building; also home to Wards Corner Chiropractic.

Preliminary Oak Street development drawing shows parking layout under buildings (Provided)

“People are looking for walkable communities,” Sabo said. “It’s in the vision for Loveland’s comprehensive plan. These are what developers are looking for: to develop something in a walkable community. That is one of the objectives.”

Ingenuity is a required objective of the Loveland Comprehensive Plan for creating a residential development within land use guidelines. A unique new concrete decking system (Speed Floor) now being manufactured locally in Batavia is an imaginative design fit for 1.033 acres with estimated 20-40 foot descending hillside. The ingenious decking system is already in Costa Rica, Florida, and Las Vegas high rise developments. Sabo says this project would be the first from the local Batavia, Ohio plant.

Aesthetics, not fitting into old historic Loveland, rests high on the list of concerns cited by opposition to the plan. The look and design of the development are first and foremost for Rod Sabo and Sabo Design Associates. He does not want another Loveland Station any more than any other resident of the community. Nearly all of the planned 105 parking spaces will be underground, not a parking lot, and not street parking.  His company has recently designed several other multifamily projects to blend in with the community where they were developed.  

“We’re doing parking structures and not putting up big parking lots,” said Sabo. “And we have a partner who manufactures product that makes it more affordable to do so.”

A Sabo Design Associates design for Old Milford development proposal (Provided) 

The parking structures will help eliminate water run-off, and heat intensity which correlates to surface parking lots. The developer and Sabo Design Associates are designing the project to be environmentally friendly.

“We’re still going to look at environmentally friendly things we can do,” he said. “There is a number of things you can do, by products and building methods you choose, to be more conscious of environment and sustainability.”

Sabo has built five homes that are LEAD certified. He has designed several LEAD certified projects in Cincinnati. 

The process of working with municipal government for approval of a development is not new. The plans and drawings already submitted and making the rounds on social media are bare-bones concepts required to show how many units, parking, and building height in general. Specific design plans will be submitted only after advancing beyond the approval process for the requested SPD for development on Oak Street and Second Street.

Preliminary drawing showing the proposed buildingsfor Oak Street development (Provided)

Design review and approval would be the next step. But that is getting ahead of the process today. Right now the basic concept has been submitted for consideration by Loveland Planning and Zoning Commission to determine if development plans meet the requirements for a Special Planned District. A Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on the matter is set for Tuesday, February 4, at 7 p.m. in Loveland City Hall.

“Our aim is to design something that is aesthetically appropriate, that is aesthetically desirable, and also something in the guidelines to compliment what the city wants,” Sabo said. “We’ll listen to input. We think we’re 

going to bring something to them the people will say we want the next development to look like that. Myself and the developers are local people. I pay taxes here too. This is our community. We are taking all the things people are saying into consideration.”

Click here for more on Sabo Design Associates

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Click here for more on Speed Floor