LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS / University Heights City Council meeting highlights

OCTOBER 16, 2023 - regular meeting

  • Public comment
  • Mayor’s report
  • City council committee reports
  • Council actions
  • Council Chambers
  • Staff reports 
  • Other agenda items

Present were Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan, Vice Mayor Michele 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 two and one-half hours. 

Public comments

A resident reiterated concerns regarding traffic congestion in the Milton/University Parkway area on days when school busses, trash collection, and traffic are going through at the same time. She suggested a permit or no parking zone. She has taken her concerns to the mayor, city council, and law department.

A resident requested details of the Chik-Fil-A plan to create a drive thru restaurant in the building across from Target and expressed concerns about how the restaurant would fit with the city’s plans to focus on walkability and bike-friendly policies. He noted the large number of zoning code variances required for the plan. One of Bialy’s owners said locally owned businesses should be supported before new corporate chain restaurants. 

Mike Maliskas, candidate for council, expressed thanks for the Fall Fest and fire department open house.

Mayor’s report

The 4th Annual Fall Fest was a success and there are plans for another next year. The city engineer position has been posted on the University Heights website and cleveland.com with an Oct. 27 application deadline. The planning commission approved the Chik-Fil-A drive-thru, but the applicant plans to submit a new application to decrease the number of variances required. According to the law department, the plan is subject to further review and will be addressed at the Nov. 6 council meeting.

Mayor Brennan said he had approved flying the Israeli flag at City Hall in response to the Israel – Hamas conflict. He said Israel has a right to exist and Hamas is a terrorist organization that does not speak or act for all Palestinians.

City council committee reports

The Building and Housing Committee will meet with the acting building inspector.

The Economic Development Committee will participate in the Oct. 24 zoning code meeting at the library. Resident Linda Johnson will be included as a citizen representative.

The Safety Committee will hold a meeting Nov. 6 to discuss parking on Washington Blvd. and issues on University Parkway.

Oct. 10, the Service and Utilities Committee discussed signs, leaf collection, parks, murals, and potholes. They will meet on Nov. 6 with the SCS Engineering consultant regarding recycling.

Council actions

Council met in executive session for about 10 minutes to discuss collective bargaining and personnel.

Council approved a tentative agreement with the Firefighters Union that is in parity with the agreements for police and service department employees. 

Council approved demolishing the home at 2644 Whiton Rd. and developing a new one. This was the planning commission’s recommendation, which is contingent upon the developer reaching an agreement with the city and addressing resident concerns regarding construction parking. Mr. Rach said the project is straight forward and the new footprint is consistent with the house being demolished.

Council authorized an agreement with the Cleveland Clinic for Mobile Wellness Programming for the fire department. A successful application for ARPA funds will provide $204,600 for the program. 

Council accepted the 2023-2024 Ohio EMS Priority 1 grant of $3,000.

Council approved purchase of a new fire prevention staff vehicle as the current vehicle will cost more to repair than it is worth. Money that had been budgeted for a new ambulance will not be ready this fiscal year, so an item will be added to the next meeting’s agenda to amend the budget accordingly.

Council Chambers

Both Deanna Bremer Fisher, executive assistant to the mayor on special projects, and Sheri Sax, who had placed the state of City Hall Council Chambers on the agenda, gave separate slide presentations about the changes made in the Council Chambers. Bremer Fisher’s presentation gave the history of the building and Council Chambers, presented the changes made, and noted that the dais was removed and stored intact and can be reused. A newly hired receptionist is sitting at the City Hall entrance where Bremer Fisher had been housed, so an office was created for Bremer Fisher in council chambers. Sax’s presentation showed the demolition and noted that the mayor had executed the changes without notifying council. She claimed that disrupted asbestos tile put everyone in the building at risk but was relieved to learn from a Cleveland.com article that the county board of health, responding to an anonymous tip, tested the air and found no contamination in the air of City Hall. 

Brian King noted that council was not meeting in the chambers and said that council’s achievements in the collective bargaining agreements and fiscal responsibility should be the focus of their meeting. Weizer said an e-mail from the mayor to council would have avoided the time spent.

Staff reports

Finance Director Kennedy is waiting for a final reconciliation from ODOT for the Cedar Road project and expects a refund, as the project came in under budget.

Law Director McConville requested an executive session to address the eminent domain litigation regarding the property next to City Hall.

Service Director Allen Pennington’s report, presented by the mayor, that said nine of 14 catch basins have been repaired, the department has hired three full time laborer/drivers, and leaf collection begins Oct. 17 and continues to Dec. 22. 

Geoff Englebrecht, director of housing and community development, reported the submission of a grant application to NOACA for the Taylor Road project. There will be a public meeting Oct. 30 at the University Heights Library to discuss the changes. A representative from Cleveland Heights will also be present. A presentation will be made to NOACA on Nov. 15. 

Susan Drucker, economic development director, advised that a Lefty’s Cheesesteak franchise has purchased the old KFC building at Cedar and Taylor and will open a restaurant there at the end of the year. A zoning code meeting will take place at the University Heights Library Oct. 24 from 6-8 p.m.

Other agenda items

There was disagreement between the mayor and Sheri Sax over the Oct. 2 minutes as to whether and how the mayor responded to her report on the demolition of Council Chambers in City Hall. He asked to table the issue until he could listen to the recording, but there was no motion to do so. The journal for Oct. 2 was approved with abstentions by Christopher Cooney and Threse Marshall. Sax asked the mayor for an apology.

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.

Read More on University Heights
Volume 16, Issue 12, Posted 10:10 AM, 11.28.2023