Hunters Ridge

VERNON TOWNSHIP — Universal Development, a real estate company in Girard, Ohio, is taking the first step to expand Hunters Ridge, an apartment complex off Debra Drive.

On July 1, Vernon Township supervisors approved a request for a conditional use hearing made by Ron Anderson, president of Universal Development.

 The apartment complex, along with Universal's adjacent Forest Hills condominiums, dates to the late 1990s, but this final phase has evolved since then. The new section would branch off from Hunters Ridge Boulevard between Hunters Ridge and Forest Hills. Currently, the development has 120 apartment units.

The developer plans to build fewer apartment houses than originally planned, but each will have larger, 1,500-square-foot units, according to Township Manager Robert Horvat. The plan calls for 15 new apartment houses with four apartments in each building for a total of 60 additional units. The plan also calls for a 3,500-square-foot community center to hold social events and a dog park for residents.

Universal is marketing to residents 50 and older, although Hunters Ridge is not exclusively a senior living community.

Horvat explained he and Township Engineer Ashley Porter called for a conditional use hearing because of the updated design and also because garden-style apartments are not included in the suburban residential zoning district in which the new phase is planned. The hearing is set for 7 p.m. July 31 at the township building, 16678 McMath Ave.

Anderson already had met with the township planning commission about how best to proceed. Horvat noted there were many more approvals Universal would have to secure before breaking ground.

"I would not expect any building to be done this year," Horvat said. "We’re still at the very beginning of this process. You figure if the board were to grant conditional use approval in August, you’d still go through land development and stormwater, and that alone is going to take some time."

Anderson was more optimistic about the bureaucratic process, estimating they would break ground this fall. He noted that folks are looking for more "upscale" living arrangements, and 60 percent of their tenants are 50 or older.

"There is a lot of demand," Anderson said. "We have a waiting list on the project now, and that’s the feedback that we’re getting from our surveys."

Anderson admitted Universal was "busy on other projects," which delayed Hunters Ridge's final phase, and described Vernon Township's retail options and the Vernon Place hospital as contributing to "a complete city."

Despite the red tape, Horvat was positive about the investment and the potential for 60 to 120 new residents in the township. Yet, he thought there might be a "mixed response" to the project from current residents.

"For some people, I think there’ll be a smooth transition into this," Horvat said. "Then anytime something new comes, people get concerned about things such as an increase in traffic on their road, an increase in the use of infrastructure. There will be people with those concerns, but I’m sure there’ll be people that look at it as a great boost to our tax base."

Tyler Dague can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at tdague@meadvilletribune.com.

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