CHAGRIN FALLS -- The River Walk townhouse project has many eyes watching its progress.
The development on West Orange Street has been underway for some time and has its proponents and its opponents. After the Chagrin Hardware building on North Main Street, it's the second tallest structure downtown.
Its detractors say the construction is causing the adjacent slope north of the property to fail. Village officials and developer Robert Vitt, owner of Silver Leaf Development Inc. of Sagamore Hills, say that's not true.
For now, only Phase I is underway on three of the six lots owned by Vitt. Two of the three, four-story buildings on those three lots are nearly complete and Vitt says only the third buidling will be worked on before winter sets in.
Village Administrator Ben Himes says the village has only given permits for Phase I, the first three buildings, and that permits for the buildings on the remaining three lots (Phase II) won't be issued until soil samples are reviewed.
Right now, an engineering company based in Pittsburgh, Himes said, is testing the soil , measuring the water table and measuring if the slope is slipping.
Right now, the tests have provided baseline readings and Himes says it will be 30-60 days before the other readings are available.
Himes said the rainy weather since spring has not affected the project or the slope and the temporary retaining "wall" in place there is to keep soil from washing down into the street.
Himes said that the slope above the development already may have had decades of evidence that the area had slope failures.
He said the village is watching the project, being built on land that was partly purchased from the village, and that the Board of Zoning Appeals required the developer to design and install a slope retention system in one section.
Vitt said the permanent retaining wall to be built in the northwestern corner of the property is not to hold the slope up but to protect the building yet to be constructed.
Vitt tells Channel 3 that this project is "probably one of the most closely watched projects in Northeast Ohio."
He added that there is "no data to support the assertions" that the construction caused any slope failures.
He also said the record rain since spring has not affected the project and reiterated what Himes said, that the retaining wall that will be built on the northwest corner of the project "is not to hold up the hill."
Some neighbors are unhappy with the West Orange Street project, alleging that the construction has caused the slope west of the development to shift, damaging their homes located just above River Walk.
In April, one couple filed a lawsuit against the developer, alleging that their home on Cottage Street was damaged when the slope shifted. That lawsuit is still ongoing. A message requesting comment left at the home was not returned at this writing.
The nearest neighbor on Williams Street has called the Ohio Occupational Safety and Health Administration several times, citing OSHA violations.
Himes said OSHA investigated and found one instance where a hand rail was not secured and another where some of the Amish craftsmen working the project did not have the proper safety eyewear.