Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 3-3-14

MARCH 3, 2014

  • Public comments
  • Turkey Ridge development and CRAs
  • Doan Brook Watershed Partnership
  • Mayfield Road traffic signal upgrades
  • School Travel Plan
  • Zoning variances
  • Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP)
  • HOME agreement with HRRC
  • FEMA grant
  • Nuisance properties
  • Employee compensation
  • Citizen appointments
  • Red Cross Month

All council members were present.

Public comments

Turkey Ridge CRA: Seventeen residents of the Turkey Ridge, Derbyshire, Kenilworth, and Kenilworth Mews areas, as well as residents from other parts of Cleveland Heights, rose to speak against the Community Reinvestment Area (CRA or tax abatement area) legislation having its third reading tonight. These included representatives of the board of Kenilworth Mews and residents of Brownstones at Derbyshire and other nearby private dwellings. Two citizens spoke in favor of the ordinance.

Most speakers protested extending the tax abatement area beyond the 10 units being planned on Turkey Ridge, which they said would set up unequal and unfair taxation and difficulty selling dwellings that are not abated. Speakers termed the action absurd, unjust, naïve, and uncreative thinking. One expressed concern that this action constitutes “privatizing gains and socializing losses.”

Residents stated that the area is one of the wealthiest and most stable in Cleveland Heights, with no blight to reduce, and that it would be a dangerous precedent to concentrate on a “bright, shiny, upscale” area instead of distressed neighborhoods. One questioned whether the development would happen without the abatement and another thought that the “public purpose test” specified in the law that allows for CRA establishment may not have been met.

Other speakers stated that the emergency in Cleveland Heights housing is primarily north of Mayfield Road and that parts of that territory represent what a CRA is meant to address—support of a high-risk neighborhood. A letter signed by 50 residents, churches and businesses north of Mayfield Road expressed many of the same feelings and concerns.

One speaker opined that the city had not used the two weeks since the second reading of this legislation to foster an open public discussion. Another speaker made the accusation that council members’ campaign committees may have received donations from developers.

Speaking in favor of the proposal, Brendan Ring, owner of Nighttown and representing the Cedar Fairmount Business Association and Special Improvement District (SID), stated that SID members voted to support this measure because economic reality indicates a need for tax abatements.

Neighbor difficulties: A resident from Nelaview Road, who has appeared at council before, continues to have problems with next-door neighbors, although the police have tried to help. She was referred to Tanisha Briley, city manager Tanisha Briley.

Housing inspection issue: A woman from Clarendon Road, who noted that Clarendon is an award-winning street, complained of a problem with housing inspection and an occupancy permit for her second-floor suite. She was referred to Rick Wagner, housing department director.

Liquor licenses

Two notices from the Ohio Department of Liquor Control concerned Joey’s Bistro Bar Italiano on Lee Road and a 7-Eleven store on Mayfield Road.

Turkey Ridge development and CRAs

Richard Wong, planning director, made a PowerPoint presentation regarding CRAs, which is available on the city’s website at: http://www.clevelandheights.com/index.aspx?page=1569.

Commenting on CRAs during her report, Tanisha Briley maintained that most published city planning studies look at commercial, not residential, abatements. She stated that 50 percent of Cleveland Heights’s city services are funded by income taxes, that Cleveland Heights is not the first community to use a CRA in this way, and that blight is not required to establish a CRA.

Before voting on the Turkey Ridge Development/CRA legislation, most members of council made statements explaining their votes:

Council Member Jeff Coryell discussed his campaign promises and how they related to the tax abatement issue. He concluded the proposed CRA was not justified simply because Turkey Ridge is included in the city’s strategic plan, especially without more robust discussion. He pointed out that Cleveland Heights is not in the same place of desperation as Cleveland and that he is not persuaded that Kenilworth Mews should be included in a CRA. He will vote no.

Council Member Mary Dunbar thanked all the citizens who contacted and challenged her but said she will vote yes. She believes a strong public sector is built on a strong private sector paying taxes and that city revenues have been challenged by changes at the state level.

Council Member Janine Boyd thanked citizens for their e-mails and speeches and stated that council should look into tax abatement opportunities north of Mayfield. The decision presented her with much conflict about development, especially regarding the trees in the area, and she does not want just to “hand” the land to a developer. However, she will vote yes, in order not to resist change or miss an opportunity for the city.

Council Member Melissa Yasinow also claimed this was not an easy decision but will vote yes, because it seems to be in the best interest of the community. She clarified that abatement will only apply to taxes on improvements and will bring in income tax revenue from new residents. There are already six CRAs in place in Cleveland Heights. She affirmed that no personal benefit had come to any member of council and that the ordinance was not “rammed through,” as all notification requirements had been met.

Vice Mayor Cheryl Stephens thanked all who came to voice their concerns. She will vote yes for budget reasons. Council cannot make city staff any leaner, and with no income tax increase, do more development. She concluded that council has learned that more communication is needed in the future.

Mayor Dennis Wilcox thanked speakers for their civility. He said this legislation furthers the goal of expanding the tax base. The city gets only 11 to 12 percent of the property taxes residents pay; more of that revenue goes to the schools. He noted that the abatement is only on improvements, not on the land, and it treats historic structures in the CRA differently. There will be no abatement on current property taxes in these areas. He concluded that we must look to the future. Some people want new housing and if it is not offered in our city they will go elsewhere. He will vote yes.

Council Member Jason Stein did not make a statement.

The ordinance passed on third reading with Coryell voting no.

Doan Brook Watershed Partnership

Council authorized an agreement with the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership for partial funding for operating expenses in the amount of $18,000 for the period of April 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015. Mary Dunbar serves on the board of the partnership as part of her council assignment.

Mayfield Road traffic signal upgrades

Council accepted federal safety funds through the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) for engineering costs for the upgrade of Mayfield Road traffic signals.

School Travel Plan

Council authorized application for Safe Route to School funding through ODOT to implement infrastructure portions of the School Travel Plan recommendations. If granted, the $500,000 requested would pay for items such as bike racks and bike lane markings. Similar funding of $30,000 through ODOT will pay for noninfrastructure portions of the School Travel Plan recommendations, such as education, enforcement, and encouragement of biking and walking.

Zoning variances

Council granted variances to:

  • Maciej and Cindy Zawadski, 2961 Fairfax Road, to permit a front yard curved driveway, necessary because the traffic around nearby Fairfax Elementary School makes it difficult to get out of their driveway safely.
  • Motorcars Honda, 2959 Mayfield Road, for an eight-foot-tall, solid-wood fence along the rear property line where a maximum of seven feet is allowed. After tree limbs fell, the trimming of trees left adjacent single-family homes too exposed, which the fence and a buffer zone will shield.

Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP)

Council approved the sale of city-owned property at 3154 Sycamore Road for $120,000 and authorized down payment assistance funds totaling $5,000 to the buyer. This is the last of the city properties rehabilitated through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) and the net gained will go back into the NSP fund.

HOME agreement with HRRC

Council authorized an agreement with the Home Repair Resource Center (HRRC) for the use of HOME funds in the amount of $200,000, which will be transferred to the nonprofit agency to administer the down payment assistance loan program for Cleveland Heights.[HOME Investment Partnerships Program is a HUD program.]

FEMA grant

Council ratified acceptance of a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) grant from the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) program. This $1,171,000-plus grant will support the hiring of six new firefighters for two years.

Nuisance properties

Council declared three vacant properties to be nuisances:

  • 13358 Cedar Road
  • 3369 Desota Ave./1760 Compton Road
  • 2260 South Taylor Road

Employee compensation

Council established salary schedules, position classifications, and other compensation for officers and employees of the city, which will go into effect April 1.

Citizen appointments

Melissa Yasinow announced the appointments of Jeffrey Rink to the Planning Commission for the term ending Dec. 31, 2018 and Benjamin Hoen to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) for the term ending Jan. 31, 2018.

Red Cross Month

Council recognized March as Red Cross Month.

LWV Observer: Blanche Valancy.

Please note: YouTube videos of Cleveland Heights City Council meetings may be accessed at youtube.com/clevelandheightsoh.

These meeting summaries are abstracted from LWV observers’ written reports. The summaries have been edited and prepared by Anne McFarland, Charlene Morse, and Maryann Barnes. To receive e-mail postings of full reports, send an e-mail to mbarnes9515@gmail.com or join through Google groups using “lwv-chuh observer reports” as a search phrase.

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 Cuyahoga Area. This disclaimer must accompany any redistribution of these reports.

Read More on Cleveland Heights
Volume 7, Issue 4, Posted 12:56 PM, 03.15.2014