Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 3-1, 3-3-21

MARCH 1, 2021


  • Public comments
  • City manager's report
  • Council actions
  • Consent agenda
  • Council member comments
  • Committee of the whole meeting


Present at this regular meeting were Council President Jason Stein, Council Vice President Kahlil Seren, Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell, and Michael Ungar. Also present were City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil, Clerk of Council and Finance Director Amy Himmelein, and Law Director William Hanna. The meeting began at 7:50 p.m. and ended at 8:30 p.m.

Public comments

A resident questioned the city’s urgency to approve the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook Redevelopment project. She asked if more apartments are really needed, suggested a needs assessment, commented that this could wait until a new mayor is installed, and asked why the city would take on more debt. She suggested an urban park on the site would help the city reclaim its place as an artsy community.

A resident informed council that a landscaper has designed a park for the corner of [Tullamore] and Lee. The plan can be found at

Two residents wrote in support of the Desota Avenue Neighborhood Redevelopment infill project. They asked the city to consider excluding corner lots in the project proposals as it may interfere with the Compton/Greenway project. The residents asked for public meetings to engage the neighborhoods impacted by these plans. [The city manager responded to this comment in her report below.]

Krista Hawthorne, director of Reaching Heights, reported that the Heights High Tigers Swim Team relay qualified for state finals for the first time in many years. She also noted that two students at Heights High were honored as National Merit finalists: Maple Buescher and Xavier Routh. She highlighted the LWV Equity in Education discussions, especially the second panel which included CHUH Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby, and suggested that residents view the panels at Council was advised that the CHUH School Board is now meeting in person. Its next meeting will be March 2.

A resident implored council to find a way to open Cumberland Pool this summer, implementing CDC guidelines for social distancing and limiting the number of swimmers. Council President Stein commented that this may be addressed at a Parks and Recreation meeting next week.

City manager's report

City Manager Susanna O'Neil noted that Terrace Construction Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio was awarded the contract for resurfacing Shannon Road, and that Warren Equipment, Inc., of Plant City, Florida was awarded the contract to provide the city with five Aluminum Refuse Ejector Trailers. Ms. O'Neil advised council that the Desota Ave. and Compton Road projects are separate, and that staff will make certain they do not overlap. She apologized that the neighbors were not consulted. Staff will make certain to meet with neighbors. Three of the consent agenda items are part of the city's automation of refuse and recycling. The next FOCUS magazine will include explanations and deadlines for the automation, and the information will be on the website.

Council actions

Council authorized submission of the 2021 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement and an amended CDBG application for 2019. Mr. Ungar added that this process was a lot of work but went smoothly, and that the Citizens Advisory Committee and staff were on the same page.

Council approved issuance and sale of $1.5 million of economic development non-tax revenue bond anticipation notes for the city portion of the Top of the Hill project.

Council updated 2021 appropriations and other expenditures.

There was a first reading for an ordinance to establish staff salary schedules, position classifications, and other compensation. 

Consent agenda

Using a consent agenda, council approved:

  • The purchase of a Stainless Steel Dump Body with Salt Spreader from Gledhill Road Machinery Company
  • The purchase of a Tandem Axle Cab and Chassis from Valley Freightliner and Western Star
  • The purchase of six Heil 28 Front End Loaders from Bell Equipment Co.
  • An agreement with the Ohio Water Authority for planning and construction of the 2021 Refuse and Recycling Transfer Station
  • Recognition of March 2021 as Red Cross Month and as National Women’s History Month.

Council member comments

Ms. Dunbar commented on the equipment purchase and construction agreement for the Refuse and Recycling Automation, and noted that former City Manager Tanisha Briley and city staff deserve applause for planning, and Ms. Niermann O’Neil for implementing, this project to get it done before the new mayor arrives. Ms. Dunbar supports the hands-free initiative to keep drivers and bikers safe.

Mr. Ungar thanked Brian Iorio and staff for all their work preparing the CDBG grants each year. Mr. Ungar reported that he and Council Member Russell were moving forward with the Racial Justice Task Force appointee process and will be announcing their plan at the next council meeting.

Mr. Seren invited council to a National Arboretum tree planting April 30 at 10 a.m. at the Roanoke/Noble garden. The City Forestry Department and Heights Tree People will plant trees. Mr. Seren read a prepared statement that he and Ms. Dunbar are redoubling their efforts to plan for the mayoral transition. Adoption of any policy changes they recommend will require a majority vote by council. He made a motion to vote to appoint Tas Nadas as a council member. When there was no second to his motion, he advised council that residents were losing confidence. Ms. Dunbar advised Mr. Seren that his motion should be discussed in executive session.

Ms. Russell asked the city manager to obtain the Census Tree, won in a census competition with University Heights, before the April 30 tree planting so it could be included. The Parks and Recreation plans for the summer and the Social Justice Task Force formation will be discussed at the council committee of the whole March 8.

Ms. Hart said that revenue from the Top of the Hill contractors for employee income taxes has been less than projected. The payroll taxes were supposed to offset the costs of the bonds for the project. The city manager will ask the economic development director to collect information from the contractor. Ms. Hart appreciated Mr. Seren's attempt to nominate someone for the vacant council seat. She suggested council return to the 17 original applicants and announce new finalists to break the logjam.

Committee of the whole meeting (COW)

During the COW, which was held prior to the regular meeting, Nancy Levin, Heights Libraries director, presented library initiatives. She will announce a plan for the Noble Library in the next two weeks. She asked council to consider eliminating the curfew for youth, noting that high school students working at the libraries have had issues getting home after curfew. She suggested there may have been some racial profiling. The suggestion of racism upset Ms. Dunbar and Mr. Stein, who both noted that the curfew was put in place to prevent the flash mobs taking place several years ago. Council members and the city manager supported revisiting the curfew.

Council discussed rules for guiding council members, especially when they are running for mayor. Ms. Hart had some proposals that would keep city-sponsored events unaffiliated with individual council members’ events. Law Director Hanna advised council that the current charter does not include any such guidelines.

MARCH 3, 2021 

At this special committee of the whole meeting, all council members and the city manager were present to hear three proposals for infill housing development with the Neighborhood Redevelopment Program (NRP). [Infill housing is the insertion of additional housing units into an already-approved subdivision or neighborhood.] 

The following three development teams, who submitted requests for qualifications and preliminary proposals (RFP/RFQ) for the NRP, presented their plans and designs:

  • Start Right Community Development Corporation
  • Ozanne Construction Co. Inc. and Borden Design Partnership
  • Liberty Development Company and Amato Homes

All three presentations were thorough with council asking many questions. Questions for each group covered engagement of neighborhood residents in planning, designs that complement existing housing inventory, prices that are based on current market analysis, and financing available to each development team. Council will deliberate on the three proposals at the March 8 committee of the whole meeting.

This meeting and the presentations can be viewed on the city’s YouTube channel. Links for the proposals can be found on the city’s website

LWV Observers: Gail Larson and Blanche Valancy. 

Meeting packets, legislation, and other information can be found on the city website. 

Videos of all public council meetings can be viewed on the “City of Cleveland Heights, OH” YouTube channel

Read More on Cleveland Heights
Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 1:37 PM, 03.23.2021