University Heights City Council meeting highlights 5-15-2017

MAY 15, 2017

  • Expedited variance requested
  • Approval for variances for group home
  • Converting Wiley from high school to middle school
  • Ohio’s medical marijuana law
  • Resurfacing Silsby Road
  • Door to door solicitors
  • Public comments

Present were Mayor Susan Infeld and council members Susan Pardee (vice mayor), Philip Ertel, John Rach, Steven Sims, Michele Weiss and Mark Wiseman. Councilwoman Pamela Cameron was absent. Also present were Law Director Luke McConville, Finance Director William Sheehan and Clerk of Council Kelly Thomas. The meeting was held from 7 to 9:45 p.m.

Expedited variance requested

Mr. and Mrs. Berkowitz of Rubyvale Road sought assistance from council to expedite their building variance, or to enable them to pull building permits while the variance is addressed separately. The Berkowitzes spent two years planning their home addition, and received approval from the Architectural Review Board in February 2016, but the approval expired before construction began. Due to a miscalculation by a previous building commissioner, their porch will now require a variance. Their contractors were ready to begin work, and might move on to other jobs if there is a significant delay. They are also incurring additional costs by waiting. Mayor Infeld explained that building permits require work to begin within a specific period of time, and that time frame was exceeded significantly. Law Director McConville noted that the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) is meeting three weeks earlier than usual, specifically for their request, and that neither he nor council are able to speculate on what the decision of the BZA will be. There is no flexibility in the city’s building code. Councilman Sims applauded the Berkowitz’s long commitment to the city and to making improvements. The mayor denied their request, noting that the city was already expediting the process.

Approval for variances for group home

Bellefaire JCB plans to open a group home at 2433 South Belvoir Blvd., but the location requires two special use permits and six variances. The location will provide a home for six autistic adults and be staffed around the clock. The home’s footprint will remain the same, but structural changes will be made to better meet the needs and safety of the residents. The special use permits are to use the property as a group home and to allow the use of the basement as a bedroom with bathroom. The variances pertain to the distance from any other group home (1,446 feet instead of 2,000); the minimum lot size, front footage, rear setback, side/rear parking; and “occupancy of special character.” Council approved all requests.

Converting Wiley from high school to middle school

No action was needed; all planning commission recommendations for converting the swing high school space into a swing middle school space for the next two years were approved before construction began two years ago.

Ohio’s medical marijuana law

Attorney, and former council member, Kevin Patrick Murphy came before council to answer questions about implementation of the Ohio medical marijuana law and business options for University Heights. He explained that most facilities for distributing medical marijuana are 2,500 square feet, and finding a large enough property in University Heights that meets the requirement to not be within 500 feet of “anything” would be difficult. Real estate brokers can create an overlay map to look for potential properties. Shopping centers can be difficult due to restrictions placed by current tenants.

Finding a good operator is a challenge. Medical marijuana doesn’t draw a large criminal element but it does require a strong manager due to the cash nature of the business. The state is currently allowing 60 sites to open and competition is strong. The rules will be issued in January or February 2018, and the dispensaries will open in September 2018 or later. Thus far, only laws regarding cultivation have been written. The next step will be writing laws for processing medical marijuana.

Mayor Infeld asked whether the license is permanent or transitory, like those for motor vehicle bureaus. Murphy noted that the license will be more like a liquor license—transferable—and it can be revoked for violations. Mark Wiseman asked about crime. Murphy explained that there hasn’t been a statistical increase in crime around medical marijuana in other states. Ohio is also a highly regulated state with video cameras providing feedback to the state. Opioid use has also decreased with availability of medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana use tends to increase traffic and loitering, but medical marijuana has too many constraints.

Steven Sims asked about projected revenue to a city. Murphy said that the dispensaries are the least lucrative of the three phases. Cities can ask the licensee what [it is] willing to provide [to] the city, such as donations to projects or drug-training programs. Ninety percent of Ohioans approve of medical marijuana. Across the country, all states started with medical marijuana, and within two to four years many have added adult recreational use.

Resurfacing Silsby Road

Council authorized the resurfacing of Silsby Road from South Taylor Road to Edgerton Road (Ordinance 2017-13) and also authorized the mayor to enter into an agreement with Cuyahoga County, which will pay $210,000 as half of the resurfacing cost.

Door-to-door solicitors

When asked about a salesman who was going door to door in the city, Police Chief Steve Hammett said University Heights has no ordinance banning soliciting, but people can post a sign saying “No Solicitors” and the sign must be observed. If the salesman still approaches the house, [he is] trespassing.

Public comments

Crosswalk signals at Cedar Warrensville: A resident expressed concern about crosswalk signals, which don’t work or are poorly timed, at some of the intersections around Cedar and Warrensville Center roads. Mayor Infeld and Chief Hammett explained that the city does review the signal timing. Changes were made because of the high school being at Wiley, increasing the number of pedestrians, but the timing changes when school is not in session. Some of the [signal] buttons have also been replaced. The issue is shared with South Euclid, which is responsible for the north side of the intersection. Hammett also explained that the traffic lights are on “loops” which detect traffic, so patterns can be changed by traffic changes. Emergency vehicles going through the intersection also change the signals. The loop then needs to complete a cycle before resetting to the original timing. Hammett asked for pedestrians to contact the police department if they find a crosswalk button that is not working; police do not test them on a regular basis. [This public comment was made at the beginning of the meeting, but the mayor discussed this with residents during the directors’ reports.]

LWV Observer: Wendy 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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