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Akron proposes new zoning code for Merriman Valley, Schumacher Area

map of Merriman Valley and Schumacher area
Farr Associates
Akron is proposing updating the zoning codes for the Merriman Valley and Schumacher Area.

Akron has released a draft of a new zoning code for the Merriman Valley. The new code aligns with residents’ goals to preserve green space and develop a walkable community.

The city is looking to change the zoning in the Merriman Valley and Schumacher Area to a form-based code. Form based code promotes affordable housing, helps small businesses, encourages walkability and advances revitalization. Instead of focusing on separation of uses of land, form based code focuses on the character and layout of a community. For example, in the draft plan there are instances of mixed residential and commercial land uses. The end result is a walkable community with a focus on preserving green spaces.

“The form-based zoning over time moves things closer to the street with shop fronts and more pedestrian access and parking in the back," Akron zoning manager Mike Antenucci said.

The new code was developed from the Merriman Valley Schumacher Area Master Plan, which Akron released in conjunction with Cuyahoga Falls last year, Antenucci said.

“This is actually how the Merriman Valley Master Plan can come to fruition," Antenucci said. "Essentially this is how to guide that development.”

The plan zooms in on what residents want the Merriman Valley to look like, including more walkable and equitable neighborhoods, becoming a gateway community for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, protecting the environment and improving transportation systems. Form-based zoning is the way to make this a reality, Antenucci said, and it might not be limited to the Merriman Valley.

“This is something that we’re looking at possibly being able to duplicate in other parts of the city," Antenucci said.

Cuyahoga Falls is also working on a draft of a form-based zoning code for this area. The city is on about the same timeline as Akron, Akron city planner Daniel D'Angelo said.

Antenucci and D'Angelo hope to have the code in front of city council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee in August.

The city released a draft of the new code Tuesday and is asking the public for input. Akron City Councilmembers Nancy Holland and Shammas Malik are holding a public meeting next Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:00 at Weathervane Playhouse about the new code. Residents can also provide feedback by emailing valleyplan@akronohio.gov or calling 330-375-2090.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.