Crowd fills Aurora Town Hall to oppose party center/funeral chapel plans

by KEN LAHMERS | EDITOR Published:

Aurora -- Citing concerns about excessive noise, traffic congestion and that neighboring home values could decline, a large group of Aurora Golf Club area residents turned out Jan. 16 for a planning commission public hearing focusing on a proposal to use the former clubhouse as a party center and funeral chapel.

Nearly 50 people attended as Town Hall's Council chambers were filled and several residents stood in the hall outside the room.

Aurora Events LLC is seeking a conditional zoning certificate to operate the party center. The audience was told that a funeral chapel is an allowable use in the C-1 commercial district where the building is located, but the certificate is needed to operate the party center.

About two years ago, Aurora voters rezoned the clubhouse area south of Trails End and the area north of Trails End where the club's former pro shop was situated from R-2 residential to C-1.

Aurora Events LLC is composed of Thomas Steinbauer of Kindrich-McHugh-Steinbauer Funeral Home in Solon and his partner Donald LoPresti.

Steinbauer said plans are to convert the locker rooms on the north side of the building into the funeral chapel and the grill room-dining area-kitchen into the party center.

Resident Chuck Galloway and other residents noted Trails End is curvy and not very wide, so they are concerned that additional traffic to the party center/funeral home would create safety hazards.

Galloway also cited the fact that the city proposes to relocate parks offices and vehicles to some golf course buildings when the city's acquisition of 186 acres of golf course land is finalized, thus adding to the congestion.

Resident Joe Keckan said the proposed businesses "are not a good fit" for the area, and expressed concerns that the businesses would negatively impact neighborhood housing values.

Residents Tony Pfenning and John Monroe said some neighbors could hear music from live bands at clubhouse functions even when they are playing inside. They also are concerned about traffic congestion.

"WE SHOULDN'T allow more things to happen there," said Pfenning. "If it was intended for a party center/funeral chapel, the owners should have let the public know when the rezoning issue went on the ballot."

Resident P.J. Shankman also said future plans for the property were not unveiled when the rezoning was decided, and claimed the city's communication with residents was not clear.

Steinbauer said the uses would not be much different than what has taken place in the clubhouse for many years. He said no embalming would be done there, and said he had no knowledge of previous noise complaints at the site.

"Since Aurora has grown rapidly in recent years and has no funeral businesses and limited banquet facilities, we believe there is a need for this," he said.

In response to citizens' concerns whether there would be adequate parking for those coming to the building, Planning-Zoning-Building Director Rich Wehrenberg said the property meets the code.

Steinbauer said funerals and visitation would take place mostly during the week, with party events slated on weekends.

He added Aurora Events LLC does not plan to reopen the outside swimming pool, but might look into the possibility of allowing another entity to operate it.

Planning commission chairwoman Maria Heidel said the panel takes citizens' input seriously, and will take its time to analyze all the data before voting on the CZC.

The panel has 95 days from the date of the public hearing to decide the issue. Its next meeting will be Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.

In a related matter, the commission unanimously approved a lot split for 5.6 acres of the property.

One 3.59-acre parcel includes the clubhouse, swimming pool and parking area, while the other 2 acres includes a small parking area, the golf course's 18th green and a portion of the fairway.

The clubhouse section would be transferred to Aurora Events LLC, while Aurora Recreation LLC would retain ownership of the 2-acre parcel.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189

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