University Heights City Council meeting highlights 12-18-2017

DECEMBER 18, 2017

  • Public comments
  • Bellefaire/JCB request for demolition
  • Hadleigh Road request for demolition
  • Demolition permits
  • County public health services
  • Medical marijuana operations
  • Medical marijuana applications moratorium
  • BZA ordinance revisions
  • Vacant buildings
  • Customer parking at Swensons
  • Resolution honoring Mayor Susan Infeld

Present were Vice Mayor Susan Pardee, and council members Pamela Cameron, Philip Ertel, John Rach, Michele Weiss and Mark Wiseman. Councilman Steven Sims arrived after roll call. Mayor Susan Infeld and Councilman Mark Wiseman were absent. Also present were Law Director Luke McConville, Finance Director William Sheehan, and Clerk of Council Kelly Thomas. The meeting was held from 7:03 to approximately 9:05 p.m.

Public comment

Three Beachwood residents raised their concerns regarding the new Swensons Restaurant on Cedar near Green Road. Leslie Kushner read a letter on behalf of the Beachwood City Council expressing their dismay over the lack of communication with Beachwood regarding Swensons. They feel the restaurant will have a negative impact on the residents of Beachwood, especially with the late hours of operation. Tony Kushner asked for tonight’s vote to be delayed until UH Council has been able to meet with members of Beachwood’s City Council, addressing concerns of crime and noise. The shrubs planted to block noise and light are insufficient. Mike Berkley lives directly across from Swensons on Cedar Road. He said that the lights are shining directly into his children’s bedrooms, and the barrier plantings need at least ten years of growth to have an impact.

Bellefaire/JCB request for demolition

Bellefaire needs to demolish the old dormitory, built in 1928, that was closed in 1990 for safety concerns and code issues. Currently, it is only being used for food storage and the maintenance shop, which will be relocated. A new dormitory is being designed for additional youth beds, and the plan will be presented for approval when it has been completed. The request was approved.

Hadleigh Road request for demolition

Michael Murphy, who owns the properties at 4174 and 4168 Hadleigh Road, is asking to demolish the house at 4174 Hadleigh in order to provide a larger yard for his home at 4168. Murphy grew up in University Heights and chose to return with his wife and children. He loves their home and neighborhood, but the lot is exceptionally small for that street. Rach noted that this is a “gem of a house,” valued at $385,000, and tearing it down will reduce the taxable value of the property to just the value of the lot. There are few $400k homes in UH and the city will also lose the tax value of a family in that home. Murphy noted that the city will receive more tax revenue from his family than from two other families. Weiss noted that the tax revenue is a small percentage of the city’s revenue, and would hate to lose their family as residents. She noted that the last demolition to increase the size of a lot was done twenty years ago and has been an improvement to that street. Ertel noted that the same rationale was used twenty years ago on the previous demolition. Pardee agreed that it is a beautiful house but prefers to keep the family here, and notes that the proposal was approved by the planning commission. McConville noted that the planning commission approval was contingent on consolidating the two lots into one, but Rach feels it is better to leave the two lots separate to leave greater flexibility in the future. The request was approved, with Rach voting no, Sims passing, and the remaining four voting in favor.

Demolition permits

Sims proposed that the regulations in the city code entitled “Demolition Permit Required: Issuance” and “Applications and Appeals” be changed to require that any application for a demolition permit be considered exclusively by council in order to clarify that the board of zoning appeals does not have purview over demolitions. This was presented on first reading.

County public health services

Council authorized a contract for public health services with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

Medical Marijuana operations

Ordinance 2017-49 was presented on first reading, proposing that “Medical Marijuana Operations,” “Medical Marijuana Dispensaries,” and “Use Regulations” regulating cultivators, processors, dispensaries, and testing laboratories be passed in order to lay the groundwork for potential future business opportunities. McConville explained that there is a significant application process, security provision requirements, and regulations from Ohio before a business can be established.

Medical Marijuana applications moratorium

Ordinance 2017-50, also presented on first reading, proposes a moratorium on applications for building permits, zoning approvals, or certificates of occupancy that would enable the creation of medical marijuana testing laboratories or testing facilities for at most six months to give the city time to review pertinent laws and to plan for regulations. Weiss noted that cultivators and processors are already prohibited in University Heights.

BZA ordinance revisions

Ordinance 2017-52, presented on first reading, would amend current ordinances entitled “Establishment of Board of Zoning Appeals” [BZA] and “Appeal to Council: Fee” to make the mayor a non-voting member (instead of a voting member) of the BZA. Councilwoman Weiss has been talking to other cities about their boards, and she asserts that this would help to depoliticize the BZA and allow them to make decisions more purely. It would also remove the right of appealing BZA decisions to council. Instead, appeals would go directly to the court.

Vacant buildings

According to Councilman Wiseman (in absentia), when a bank files a foreclosure on a house that is vacant, the city could require the bank to register the house and pay a fee. However, there [is] no mechanism in the city to prevent the house from decaying and becoming an eyesore. This legislation would empower the city to hold the bank responsible for maintaining the house and bring it up to code. This is based on legislation that has been in effect in South Euclid for many years and is found to be effective. This proposal is presented on first reading.

Customer parking at Swensons

Council moved to executive session to discuss revisions to the proposed ordinance 2017-54 amending the city rules entitled “Maintenance of customer parking places and surroundings.” It was noted that executive session was deemed necessary because of the threat of litigation by residents of Beachwood regarding the new Swensons. When council returned, Pardee explained that the proposed ordinance is being amended to eliminate the portion regarding serving of food to vehicles between midnight and 6 a.m. and revising the portion regarding parking cars within 75 feet of residential structures between the hours of 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. (instead of midnight and 6 a.m.) The ordinance was presented on emergency in order to go into effect immediately. Rach and Sims, preferring a slower and more studied process, voted no and effectively kept the ordinance on first reading. It will be reconsidered at a future meeting.

Resolution honoring Mayor Susan Infeld

Vice Pardee read a resolution honoring Mayor Susan K. Infeld for her twenty years of dedicated service to the community. She was elected to council on her first bid, and exhibited great devotion to the city. She managed the bond campaign for the swimming pool and playground before being elected to office. She has promoted the city and helped to form multiple regional collaborations. The council expresses deep gratitude for her years of service.

LWV Observer: Wendy S Deuring.

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These reports contain member observation and selected highlights of public meetings and are not official statements of the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland. This disclaimer must accompany any redistribution of these reports.

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Volume 11, Issue 2, Posted 1:58 PM, 02.06.2018