University Heights City Council meeting 9-18-23
SEPT. 18, 2023
- Public comments
- Mayor’s report
- City council reports
- Council action
- Staff reports
- Executive session
Present were Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan, Vice Mayor Michelle Weiss, and council members Christopher Cooney, Brian J. King, Threse Marshall, John P. Rach, Sheri Sax, and Win Weizer. Also present were Kelly Thomas, clerk of council; Luke McConville, law director; and Dennis Kennedy, finance director. The meeting ran for about one hour and 20 minutes.
Representing the League of Women Voters (LWV), Marilyn Singer announced a candidate forum on Sept. 26 and an informational meeting regarding ballot issues on Oct. 5, sponsored by the LWV. Both events will take place at the University Heights Branch Library.
Rep. Juanita Brent said her office often receives calls about how to contact people in government, government agencies, or just for general assistance, as many callers could not easily use or access the internet for the information. Her office has prepared brochures for the public for common questions, which she has been making available at local public libraries and other public areas.
Jonathan Bartel introduced himself as a candidate for UH council. If elected, he intends to work with other council members for the good of the residents. He has no grudge against any sitting council member but felt he had to respond to allegations that he would rubber stamp the mayor’s agenda. He said John Rach made the claim even though Bartel has never met Rach.
Mayor Brennan presented a lengthy report about the history and status of the city’s involvement with University Square. He said the potential for redevelopment became available in 2015 and, through two administrations, the city worked with bondholders, potential developers, Macy’s, and Target to attempt a mixed use development. He noted that the original 2003 development agreement prohibited residential use, which would have to be amended. the original. He said that a memorandum of understanding (MOU), approved by council in 2022, allowed University Heights’ community investment corporation (CIC) to take title of the garage, thus granting the city and CIC to be active participants in the redevelopment process. The transfer of the title to the city would only occur when the garage had been brought up to code and partially demolished. The city would provide a reserve fund of $50,000 a year for 10 years and receive both a substantial return on this investment and also tax benefits. University Square declared bankruptcy after execution of the MOU, thus changing the negotiations as the bankruptcy court now controls disposal of the property. Under the court’s schedule, sale bids are due Dec. 11, 2023, and a sale hearing is scheduled for Dec. 29, 2023. New development may begin in January 2024.
The mayor noted that council membership has changed since the December 2022 MOU. He criticized Vice Mayor Weiss for voting against the city hiring bankruptcy counsel and Rach for abstaining on the same vote. He feared that the current council might derail redevelopment of University Square after years of negotiation and work which would hurt the city and its citizens. In response, Weiss and Rach reiterated their support for redevelopment.
City council reports
The Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled for Sept. 19 to discuss Rank Choice Voting was cancelled due to illness of the board of elections representative.
Council approved a tentative agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) regarding the new collective bargaining results. Over the weekend, the FOP also approved the agreement, which includes pay increases for three years of 4 percent for the first two years, and 2 percent for the third.
On second reading and on emergency, council accepted tax rates approved by the county.
Council approved, on emergency, a new street lighting contract with NextEra Energy Services of Ohio, which will save the city $10,000 to $20,000 per year compared to the current contract with The Illuminating Company.
A contract with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health was presented on first reading only, with no vote. State law requires the city to have access to a board of health, as it does not have its own.
Council approved a change order for an increase of $11,927.38 for the Saybrook Road water main replacement project. The cost will be funded by Cleveland Water Department with the city being a pass through.
Housing and Community Development Director Geoff Englebrecht said he would present legislation at the next council meeting regarding the Taylor Road project, which also involves the cities of Cleveland Heights and South Euclid.
The mayor read City Engineer Joe Ciuni’s report indicating the Saybrook, Silsby, and Washington project was amended for curbing; paving on Ashurst and Charney was complete; and a temporary water line installed on Saybrook will carry the water during the water main project.
After the staff reports, the council met in executive session for about 10 minutes to discuss personnel matters.
LWV Observer: Marilyn Singer.
Meeting packets, legislation, and other information can be found on the city website at: https://www.universityheights.com/council/
Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of University Heights” YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCA82j5L_CkQxK9cXP_qrXvw/videos