Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 3-24-2021
MARCH 24, 2021 special meeting
- MetroHealth’s proposal
- Public comments
- Planning director’s report
- Amendment resolution
- Council member comments
Present were Council President Jason Stein, Council Vice President Kahlil Seren, Craig Cobb, Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell, and Michael N. Ungar. This was Mr. Cobb’s first meeting. Also present were City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil, Clerk of Council and Finance Director Amy Himmelein, Law Director William Hanna, and staff members Mary Trupo and Jim Lambdin.
The meeting lasted two hours, 29 minutes, not including executive session.
The meeting began with a statement from Council President Stein that this meeting would focus solely on MetroHealth's proposed building of a behavioral health and addiction services unit at their Severance location, which will create more than a hundred good paying jobs. Specifically, the legislation involves reconfiguration of an ambulance drive and parking, which would require the removal of trees on 0.73 acres of land that MetroHealth owns.
Staff members assisted Clerk of Council Himmelein in reading over 100 public comments. All writers urged that trees be preserved and that the health system rent parking in a largely unused are of Severance Mall.
Planning director’s report
Planning Director Eric Zamft reported on all the meetings and presentations from Nov. 23, 2020 to date as background for this resolution and all the public comments.
Joseph Frolik, MetroHealth system senior vice president for communications, government, and community relations, described the 6.75 acres of land east of MetroHealth’s Severance campus on which they will build. He outlined the independent parking study done to preserve the woodlands, the tree preservation and replacement plan (50-60 native trees and pollinator gardens), and emphasized that 184 year old Metro was here for the long haul and would not cut corners.
Resolution on the proposal
With Mr. Seren voting no, council approved, on emergency, MetroHealth’s proposal, which includes a variance to reduce the parking requirement. Council first passed an amendment proposed by Ms. Hart requiring that Metro actively investigate alternative parking.
Council member comments
Mr. Seren explained his no vote saying that, while the development was badly needed and may start a dynamic reimagining of Severance, he objected to passing this on emergency and maintained that council members had no opportunity to study and consider the consequences. He moved to postpone the vote until the April 5 meeting, but there was no second for his motion.
Mr. Ungar disagreed with Mr. Seren. He did not think this was a rush job. He stated that all the citizen emails were thoughtful, caring, and well written.
Council President Stein concluded by reading a letter he received from Dr. Akram Boutros, President and CEO of MetroHealth System, in which he explained the urgency of beginning immediately so that the behavioral health unit at Severance can open in October 2022 simultaneously with the Main Campus new construction on Scranton Road in Cleveland.
It was also noted that the trees had to be removed before April 1, at which time bats could be nesting in the trees.
LWV Observer: Blanche Valancy.
Meeting packets, legislation, and other information can be found on the city website at: www.clevelandheights.com/1142/2021-Agendas-and-Minutes
Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of Cleveland Heights, OH” YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/ClevelandHeightsOH