LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS / University Heights City Council meeting highlights

February 5, 2024- regular meeting

  • Public comment
  • Mayor’s report
  • City council committee reports
  • Council actions
  • Staff reports

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 for about 2.75 hours.  

Public comments

Marilyn Singer spoke on behalf of the League of Women Voters to announce a Presidents Day Program in partnership with the Heights Libraries.

Three University Heights residents and two South Euclid residents, who live on Miramar, spoke against the proposed Chick-Fil-A restaurant with patio and drive-thru at the location of the current Waterstone Medical Building. They cited increased traffic congestion and disregard for the current zoning mission statement, which supports walkability and discourages single use projects.

Mayor’s report

Mayor Brennan, a member of the planning commission that approved the Chick-Fil-A project and the variances required, noted that the proposed site is part of the U-9 zoning that includes Cedar Center, where restaurant use is permitted without variance for drive-thru or patio. He stated council should take the U-9 zoning into consideration as the planning commission did. The test for the special-use permit requested by Chick-Fil-A is the same as for other institutions that have been granted special use, such as religious entities. The city did not seek this applicant, but the applicant has shown a desire to be in the city, as the process to get to council has taken about a year. The traffic concerns are insignificant, as University Square was originally designed to handle more traffic than that generated by the redevelopment.  Therefore, Chick-Fil-A would not increase traffic beyond the capacity of Cedar Road. Dunkin Donuts already has a drive-thru, so there is precedent in the U-9 area.

Because council did not approve the candidate nominated for city engineer, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has postponed projects and NOACA (Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency) has expressed concern about the lack of an engineer for ongoing projects. The proposed budget uses the most recent numbers from the GDP Group for road projects and will need revision. The mayor is talking to two engineering firms and hopes to have a nomination by the next meeting.

City council committee reports

Vice Mayor Weiss said council is looking at the proposed budget and various committees may need to meet as well. She anticipates issues to be raised for discussion in the next couple of council meetings. She said it was unacceptable for projects to have been cancelled in the absence of a city engineer.

A Committee of the Whole meeting is scheduled for Feb. 6 to discuss the law director replacement. There were no other committee reports.

Council actions

Council confirmed the appointment of Alix Oglivie to the University Heights Architectural Review Board (ARB) for a term of three years. Prior to the vote, John Rach commented that the ARB still has vacancies and that the mayor terminated one member of the board for not agreeing with him. He further claimed the mayor has created a pattern of removing members of the board and harassing those who disagree with him. Weizer raised a point of order to say Rach’s comments did not address the issue before council. Mayor Brennan denied terminating a board member, but he did not renominate a member whose term was completed. Rach then described the duties and obligations of an ARB member.

Council confirmed the appointment of Lily Huyen to the ARB. She noted the importance of having a full complement of ARB members, as well as an alternate, and would like to see the empty positions filled.

Council approved the planning commission’s recommendation for a special permit to reopen and operate a day care center on Cedar Road at the site of La Petite Learning Daycare Center. 

Council rejected the site-plan application of Chick-Fil-A, which includes a special use permit for a drive-thru and patio and the granting of time-limited variances. The PEA Group, represented by attorney Anthony Coyne, and design team members were present. Prior to the vote, the applicant’s presentation said the restaurant was a permitted use and the traffic engineer, police department, fire department and planning commission had no concerns. The ARB approved the site plan. Vice Mayor Weiss voiced appreciation of the effort but also concern that the overall project did not integrate into the community as a whole. King noted the mismatch between the proposal and the current zoning code, which emphasizes residential/retail mixed use that provides economic development and walkability. As more council members voiced concern, Coyne requested tabling the application for further work, but Vice Mayor Weiss said council was ready to vote. 

Council proclaimed February as Black History Month.

There was a first reading establishing appropriations for 2024 as the budget process continues.

Council approved three items, which were added to the agenda, for renewal services for the police and fire departments.

Staff reports

Dennis Kennedy said the audit required by the county is starting and a Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) meeting is coming up.

Housing and Community Development Director Geoff Englebrecht said the grant proposal through NOACA is set for a vote on Mar. 8.

Economic Development Director Susan Drucker said Clean Eating has opened on Warrensville for sandwiches and salads.

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: www.youtube.com/channel/UCA82j5L_CkQxK9cXP_qrXvw/videos.

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Volume 17, Issue 3, Posted 11:33 AM, 02.29.2024