University Heights City Council meeting highlights 6-19-2017

JUNE 19, 2017

  • Public comments
  • Building Commissioner sworn in
  • Swensons Restaurant
  • NOACA grant request
  • Storm water management
  • 3886 Silsby Road
  • Purchase of two new pickup trucks
  • Special permit for chickens
  • Variance for a rear addition
  • Discussion of firefighter concerns

Present were Mayor Susan Infeld, Vice Mayor Susan Pardee, and council members Pamela Cameron, Philip Ertel, John Rach, Michele Weiss and Mark Wiseman. Steven Sims arrived after roll call and Philip Ertel left during public comments. Also present were Law Director Luke McConville, Finance Director William Sheehan, and Clerk of Council Kelly Thomas, clerk of council.

The meeting was held from 7 p.m. to approximately 12:15 a.m.

Public comments

Shooting on Silsby Road: Multiple residents addressed council regarding a shooting which occurred at 3750 Silsby Road at about 1:30 [on a] Sunday morning. This was the third shooting in University Heights in six months. Nobody was injured, but bullets penetrated a neighboring house and a car. Police Chief Steve Hammett reported that the likely target of the shooting was a renter who moved out the next day. Tony Gianelli of Silsby Road asked if there are any rules for landlords of rental units. Hammett said that the criminal nuisance abatement law takes effect with two or more prosecutable cited violations in one year. Nic Goodall of Silsby Road spoke of living in constant anxiety for several years now, with houses on both sides having violence and unrest They are reluctant to call the police for fear of retribution, having been told by police that they can’t file an anonymous report and must be in clear and imminent danger. They are unable to enjoy their yard or keep their windows open because of their 11-year-old daughter. Chief Hammett said that police do come out for anonymous complaints but that noise abatement charges require a named complainant. Mayor Infeld noted that rental agreements are between the homeowner and the renter, and the city isn’t involved in that transaction. Michael Dylan of Washington Boulevard also heard gunshots on Saturday and asked what the city is doing about the number of rental homes since the collapse of the housing market. He asked council to review the ordinances related to rental housing and perhaps add some new ones. Jeff Morse of East Carroll Boulevard has done research and found that the landlord of this home owns many homes in the area, all in poor condition, and another problem property is owned by a person in Boston. He is asking the city to “lean” on the landlords of problem properties.

Firefighters: A Cedarbrook Road resident called the vote of no confidence by the firefighters against Chief Douglas Zook a low mark in the city’s history. She moved here for the services but is now learning that support of the fire department has been chipped away. She suggested that, as the city brags about its positive financial position, it could use the funds to support the firefighters. She advocated that Zook be removed immediately and that training and services be restored. The mayor and Councilman Sims asked for copies of documents that were being distributed in the community by the firefighters. Law Director McConville reminded council that, as the firefighters are about to begin negotiating their contract, this might be an effort to engage in public negotiations. He urged council to hold discussions in executive session as the contract is subject to the rules of collective bargaining.

Win Weiser of Jackson Boulevard read a prepared statement discussing finances and safety. On behalf of the taxpayers, she asked for answers regarding the high number of runs to East Cleveland, the lack of equipment updates, staffing shortages, and the delays of paperwork for the 2013 FEMA grant which could result in penalties. She questioned why the city’s staffing levels are so far below the maximum levels per the Ohio Revised Code. She also asked that the mayor’s role to be separated from the safety director role and for minimum staffing levels to be written into the ordinances—not just the maximum, as it is currently.

Kathy Case of Tullamore Road stated that the mayor has zero qualifications as safety administrator. She claimed to have seen the mayor’s incompetence for six years, as she dealt with the blighted home next door to hers. Linda Kazarian asked about the cost of supporting East Cleveland and suggested that all residents receive a statement of charitable donation for their portion of the cost. She also said that the fire chief deserved a public hearing regarding the concerns raised. At this point council approved a motion by Councilman Wiseman that an item be added to the agenda to discuss these allegations.

Keith Ganner, president of the firefighter’s union and a 30-year veteran of the force, addressed council, saying that the force has always been held in high regard by the neighboring departments, but that Zook has declined to participate with neighboring city’s issues when other communities have stepped forward. He also said that Zook declined to apply for the FEMA grant for training, and has no plan to replace aging equipment, including the city’s ladder truck. Ganner asked council to address [firefighters’] many concerns.

3886 Silsby Road: The residents who live on either side of 3886 Silsby Road asked council to please declare this house a nuisance during tonight’s meeting. They reported that the house was foreclosed years ago, is now heavily damaged by water, and has a large, dying tree in the backyard, which hangs over one garage and drive.

School board candidate: Jodi Sourini of Fenwick Road announced that she is running for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school board. A 22-year resident of University Heights, she is the first candidate from University Heights to run and has a son in the district. She is frustrated by announcements of declining enrollment and hopes to turn that around.

Claver Road stop sign: Devorah Sonnenschein of Claver Road asked for a stop sign to be added at the corner of Claver Road and Washington Boulevard because there are many children on the block and sight lines are blocked by parked cars. Mayor Infeld replied that this was requested a year ago and a traffic study was conducted. No stop sign was added because of the number already along that street. Research has found that too many stop signs actually cause people to not stop at any of them, thus making it safer to not have stops at every intersection. Police Chief Hammett will conduct another traffic study to see if there is a better solution.

Swensons and traffic: A resident of Beachwood who lives at Cedar and Fenway roads, across from where Swensons will be located, expressed concern about increases in traffic when Swensons opens, noting that there is already a lot of traffic there and that large delivery trucks are going across her tree lawn.

Belvoir and Washington traffic control: Jeff Morse of E. Carroll Boulevard reported that the stop sign at Washington Boulevard for southbound traffic on Belvoir Boulevard is often disregarded by drivers. It is at the bottom of a hill, and the traffic signal for the next intersection is more visible to drivers as they start down the hill. He suggested adding a flashing red light which drivers would be able to see. There is no issue for northbound drivers.

Building commissioner sworn in

James McReynolds was sworn in as the new building commissioner. He has been the acting building commissioner, and previously served as building commissioner in other communities.

Swensons restaurant

Council made a small change in zoning to record previous zoning changes that combined four individual residential properties into a single plot which was zoned for commercial use, though the actual map was never updated.

Swensons’ representatives gave a presentation of their building design and expectations. They took steps to reduce noise and lighting spread beyond the property. They also expanded the parking spaces for Jack’s Deli, and took care to design a logical traffic pattern to reduce backups and confusion. The primary concern from council was regarding cars making a right turn onto Fenway Road and increasing traffic into the residential streets. Police Chief Hammett reported that he had spent a few hours counting cars in the lot and found that very few turned right. He and the representatives of Swensons preferred that no restrictions be made at this time, noting that signs could be added later if there was an issue. It was noted that people who want to exit onto Green Road will usually go through the shopping center to the traffic signal onto Green instead of taking Fenway. The people using Fenway Road are the residents of the neighborhood. The design was approved as presented.

[The LWV observer left the meeting at this point. A break was called at 9:45 p.m. The observer reviewed the remaining agenda items with the clerk of council. The June 22, 2017 Sun Press published an extensive article regarding the added agenda item to discuss concerns of the firefighters.]

NOACA grant request

Council approved submission of a grant request to NOACA (Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency) for the cost of replacement traffic signals at Cedar and Warrensville Center roads.

Stormwater management

Council authorized a Stormwater Management Program Service agreement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD).

3886 Silsby Road

Council declared the home at 3886 Silsby Road to be a public nuisance due to its severely deteriorated condition. This enables the city to move forward with having the house torn down.

Purchase of two pickup trucks

Council approved the purchase of a 2017 Ford F550 pickup truck from Valley Ford Truck, for a cost not to exceed $39,193, and a Ford F250 pickup truck from Middletown Ford, for an amount not to exceed $26,742. Both are purchased through the Ohio Cooperative Purchase program.

Special permit for chickens

Laura Francis of Meadowbrook Boulevard appealed the decision by the Board of Zoning that denied her request to raise chickens in her backyard. The request was denied because there isn’t enough distance to the neighboring homes. Chickens are permitted in University Heights but there are distance requirements. Council upheld the zoning board’s ruling.

Variance for a rear addition

Joe Calderwood, property owner of Kollel Yad Chaim Mordechai, requested a 5.42 percent site land coverage variance in order to build a two-story addition with a deck on the rear of the existing house. Council approved his request.

Next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 7 p.m., unless a special meeting is scheduled.

LWV Observer: Wendy S. Deuring.

To receive regular email postings of full reports, send an email to 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 of Greater Cleveland. This disclaimer must accompany any redistribution of these reports.

Read More on University Heights
Volume 10, Issue 8, Posted 2:16 PM, 07.25.2017