CH council has problems with math

It would appear that Cleveland Heights City Council has a problem with math, which is not something you want to hear about those who handle tax dollars.

When I plot out all of the publicly available revenue numbers for Top of the Hill (TOH) for 33 years, I find how the city comes to the conclusion that the project will generate approximately $14.3 million, but that is the GROSS amount, not net.

When I deduct the lost parking revenue for 30 years combined with the cost of the $1.85 million “gift” to the developer, totaling approximately $3.95 million, this means the total NET revenue to the city is inflated by 38%, and the “annual” revenue (not the one-time construction-related monies) is inflated by 45%.

I have asked council if my math is correct REPEATEDLY, and not a single member has annotated, corrected, refuted, or rebutted my math, so I guess I am right.

For the Lee and Meadowbrook development, council has made TWO math errors, or at least two omissions. The first is in regard to parking. The proposal from the developer, the same one who got a sweet deal for TOH, requires covering most of the surface parking lot with “high-end” apartments . . . with a prime view of the drive-through at Wendy’s. Between the new apartments and new street-level retail, the project proposes to attract 325 tenants and employees. If just 75% of them own a car, they will consume most of the parking spaces in the existing garage, leaving only around 125 spaces TOTAL in the Cedar-Lee lot unassigned—a reduction of 75%. When I ask council members if they have seen a parking study on how this proposal would impact existing businesses, there is no reply.

Also at Lee and Meadowbrook, the developer says it will need some form of tax abatement. Right now, the city can offer 50% for 15 years (totaling $11.25 million) or 100% for 15 years ($22.5 million), but the developer is reported to need something that requires the school board to sign off, meaning it wants tax abatement for MORE than 15 years. With the developer receiving access to the land for next to nothing, and the parking garage already existing, when I ask council, “What does the developer need tax abatement for?” again there is no reply.

Last, we have the city’s housing-infill initiative. Putting aside that the project is 10 years late, appears to have a glacial rollout, and implies Tammany Hall-style politics in regard to site selection, once again math seems to show a council with a casual attitude with PUBLIC monies.

Selling lots for $100 each is not unheard of for an initiative like this—though the premise that a site where foreclosure and demolition created the vacancy is ideal for constructing a $200,000-plus home, making it likely the most expensive home on the street . . . this former realtor finds that hard to understand.

As someone who spent 19 years serving four terms on two boards dependent on property tax revenue, that these $200,000-plus homes, built on “free” land, are reported to be tax-abated 100% for 15 years, in a city that talks about equity, seems to me a little bit unequal; every other homeowner is paying property taxes while these new residents pay nothing.

On top of that, it is reported that the first developer the city has chosen to engage for this project, a religious nonprofit whose executive director previously sued the city, is also seeking ANOTHER $550,000 in PUBLIC subsidies.

Are Cleveland Heights City Council members this frivolous with their own money, or just ours? It is my fervent hope that this November will usher in change, giving us council members who understand math . . . and respond to e-mail.

Eric Silverman

Eric J. Silverman was a member of the CH-UH school board from 1994 to 2001, and from 2014 to 2017. He was a member of the CH-UH library board from 2003 to 2009.

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Volume 14, Issue 8, Posted 3:33 PM, 07.30.2021