December 6, 2021 CoW and City Council Meetings

Committee of the Whole

You can find the agenda HERE, a synopsis of the legislation discussed HERE, and the council packet for the week HERE. You can watch a video of the meeting HERE.

The meeting began by Council President Stein amending the agenda to go into executive session at the top of the CoW meeting rather than at the end. Councilmember Cobb moved to go into executive session “to consider the terms of sale or lease of City-owned real property.” Councilmember Hart seconded the motion, the Clerk of Council called roll, all were in favor, and council went into executive session.

Upon returning from executive session and resuming the CoW meeting, the City Manager and council reviewed the legislation that would be presented at the city council meeting later that evening:

  • Ordinance 155-2021: Regarding Democracy Day, moving it to June from January. This was brought to council by the organizers of Democracy Day with the goal of increasing turnout because of better weather. This is on first reading only and will not be voted on that night. Stein commented that, if moving Democracy Day to June, council will need to be mindful that they cannot then take their summer recess in June, as Democracy Day is a mandatory meeting; Councilmember Russell, present via Zoom, advocated for a July recess, and council agreed that holding Democracy Day in June is fine. Councilmember Ungar commented on the value of Democracy Day, and the City Manager concurred.
  • Ordinance 156-2021: Regarding the continuation of the City’s liability insurance with Arthur J. Gallagher & Company. Councilmember Hart asked whether we have obtained quotes to compare rates. Our Finance Directory responded that we have quotes from our current carriers, which is reflected in the legislation. This is on first reading only and will not be voted on that night.
  • Ordinance 145-2021: Regarding the addition of the titles and salaries of City Administrator and Assistant Clerk of Council. This is on second reading and will be voted on that night.
  • Ordinance 153-2021: Regarding amending various sections of the City’s Codified Ordinances to be fully updated with the charter amendment and change of government structure. The Law Director noted that he had not received feedback for revisions to the suggested revisions; if council has no feedback, then this can be codified and sent to American Legal with the other year-end legislation. Council agreed this could be passed tonight. This is on second reading and will be voted on that night.
  • Ordinance 157-2021: Regarding the execution of a finance agreement to acquire a new fire truck. The Finance Director stated that she did not need this passed tonight. This is on first reading and will not be voted on that night.
  • Ordinance 158-2021: Regarding amending certain subparagraphs of Ordinance 127-2020 and subsequent amending ordinances relating to appropriations and expenditures for fiscal year 2021. The Finance Director stated that this needs to pass. This is on first reading but will be voted on that night.
  • Ordinance 139-2021: Regarding the 2022 budget. Councilmember Hart noted that this can be passed and amended later so that the new council and mayor can revise funding priorities but that the City can still operate in the meantime. Russell asked about a previous request for a budget format presentation that will help better present forecasts, expenses, and expenditures over a period of years; the City Manager and the Finance Director stated they are still looking at this. Ungar recommended referencing the CAFRs (Comprehensive Annual Finance Reports); the Finance Director stated that the 2019 CAFR is available on the City’s website, but the 2020 CAFR has not yet been approved for publication, and that she will provide Russell with the document being requested when she has completed it, which she anticipates will be soon. This is on first reading but will be voted on that night.
  • Resolution 159-2021: Authorizing the City Manager to enter into an agreement with the County of Cuyahoga to perform certain services to help maintain the City’s sanitary and storm sewers. This is on first reading but will be voted on that night.
  • Resolution 154-2021: Authorizing the City Manager to enter into a Development Agreement with F&C Development, Inc. concerning the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook development. This is on third reading and will be voted on that night.

Ungar then asked the Law Director about the possibility of finalizing and passing Ungar’s “pay-to-stay” legislation before Ungar exits council. The Law Director confirmed with council that the legislation will be skipping committee referral; he then stated that it has already been prepared and had its first reading, so it is ready for a second reading and a vote.

Council President Stein then adjourned the meeting.

City Council Meeting

You can find the agenda HERE, a synopsis of the legislation that was read HERE, and the council packet for the week HERE. You can watch a video of the meeting HERE.

Council President Stein called the meeting called to order.

The Clerk of Council called the roll: Present: Stein, Seren, Ungar, Hart, Cobb, Moore. Absent: Russell (due to illness).

Stein then approved minutes of November 1, November 8, and November 15, 2021 council meetings, noting that any amendments should have been referred to the City Manager by this time.

Stein then opened personal communications from our citizens, asking everyone who speaks to please limit their comments to three minutes or less.

  • One resident reiterated a previous request for a curb to be placed in front of his house, stating that it is a safety issue and that he feels this is representative of a lack of attention to the north side of the city. He also advocated for council to elect Councilmember Russell as council president or vice president, citing her attention to the north side of the city.
  • Four residents jointly presented reports from meetings with residents in the Noble and Taylor areas regarding how they would like the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding allocated in these areas. They opened by thanking Councilmember Russell for her advocacy and advocated for council to elect Councilmember Russell as council president or vice president. They then reported the following requests: throughout the areas: street lighting and cameras for increased safety, beautification projects, investing in parks and playgrounds, murals on utility boxes; in businesses: improved ventilation systems, replace windows, replace signage, and provide grants; for housing: provide grants, provide funding for the Home Repair Resource Center; installing solar roofing on three schools in these areas and the Noble library and establish a power purchase agreement (PPA) between the City and the school district; build on internet access.
  • One resident advocated for council to elect Councilmember Russell as council president or vice president, citing her attention to the north side of the city.
  • Three Cedar-Lee business owners stood up together to each advocate for the development agreement with Flaherty & Collins for the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook development project.
  • Councilmember-elect Tony Cuda advocated for the hiring on an independent clerk of council, asking the City not to hire for the newly created assistant clerk of council position until it is decided whether this position will report to the mayor or to council.
  • One resident, who has previously spoken to advocate for the preservation of green space and trees around the Cedar-Lee parking garage, thanked council for listening, referencing the updated preliminary site plan.
  • One resident, who has previously advocated for a temporary mandate that all Cleveland Heights bars and restaurants require proof of vaccination for entry, spoke on this again, citing rising COVID numbers, the statistics demonstrating the effectiveness of such a ban, and a preliminary survey of a handful of restaurant and bar owners, additionally citing that the two CH restaurants that already require proof of vaccination, Mojo’s and Felice, have experienced increased revenues since instituting this requirement.
  • A Cedar-Lee business owner advocated for council to vote to enter into the development agreement with Flaherty & Collins.
  • A resident advocated for council to vote to enter into the development agreement with Flaherty & Collins.
  • One resident spoke to thank council and the city on their responsiveness. The resident had previously asked for help on a fencing issue and received prompt response and resolution.
  • A resident in the Caledonia area spoke about problems she is having with her neighbors, reporting trash being put out on the wrong day; a dog that is allowed to run free; driving down the street at unsafe speeds, even when a school bus is present and picking up or dropping off children. She further discussed a tree lawn tree that the City had removed but left the stump and has not returned to remove the stump, as well as her desire to not replace her garage. Stein then responded that the City has revised its codes regarding garages, so she should not need to replace her garage if she does not want to, and he then asked her to speak with the City Manager regarding resolving the other issues.
  • One resident in the Cedar-Lee area thanked the City for engaging in and incorporating community feedback regarding the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook development project, then advocating for council to vote to enter into the development agreement with Flaherty & Collins.
  • One resident discussed her street, stating that low-income renters are not acting responsibly. She also stated that Caledonia Elementary should have a police presence at drop-off and pick-up.
  • One resident complained of the City’s lack of responsiveness to her concerns over the years, stating that she has been treated in a disrespectful manner and that she questions councilmembers transparency. She advocated for council to elect Councilmember Russell as council president or vice president.
  • One resident in the Caledonia area complained that the Caledonia area is not treated equally in regard to city services, citing the need for improved sidewalks and curbs, improved police presence and responsiveness, and improved responsiveness to bulk trash being left out at all times. She then advocated for council to elect Councilmember Russell as council president or vice president.
  • Another resident advocated for council to elect Councilmember Russell as council president or vice president, citing her attention to the north side of the city.
  • Another resident advocated for council to elect Councilmember Russell as council president or vice president, citing her attention to the north side of the city.
  • One resident, part of People for the Park, began by emphasizing her respect for Cedar-Lee businesses, adding that People for the Park want only the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook 1.07-acre lot to be developed into a park. She expressed concern about the financial details of the development project and long-term impacts, as well as questioned what impact the tax-increment financing would have on the school district’s revenues.

Council President Stein then closed public comments.

Council President Stein called for the Report of the City Manager. The City Manager had nothing to report.

Council President Stein called for the Report of the Clerk of Council. The Clerk of Council had nothing to report.

For the Administrative Services Committee, Council Vice President Seren presented the following legislation:

  • Ordinance 155-2021: First Reading. An Ordinance amending Section 183.01, “Public Hearing,” of Chapter 183, Political Influence by Corporate Entities, of the Cleveland Heights Codified Ordinances to the date of the public hearing that is to be held annually. This was on first reading only and will be voted on at a later meeting. Seren clarified that this ordinance only changes when Democracy Day is held during the year so it will occur during a time with better weather.
  • Resolution 156-2021: First Reading. A Resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into an agreement with Arthur J. Gallagher & Company for continuation of its protected liability self-insurance program for the City; and declaring an emergency. This was on first reading only and will be voted on at a later meeting.
  • Ordinance 145-2021: Second Reading. An Ordinance amending Ordinance No. 20-2021, “Wage and Salary Ordinance,” providing for salary schedules, position classifications, and other compensation and benefits for officers and employees of the City, to add a salary schedule, position classification, and other compensation and benefits for a City Administrator. Passed 6-0. Seren clarified that this ordinance adds our City Administrator and provides for the position’s salary and benefits, as well as creates an Assistant Clerk of Council, allowing our Finance Director to no longer need to take on that role in addition to their finance duties.
  • Ordinance 153-2021: Second Reading. An Ordinance amending various sections of the Codified Ordinances of the City of Cleveland Heights in furtherance of the transition from the Council-Manager to the Mayor-Council form of government; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0. Seren clarified that this ordinance fully updates our codes with the charter amendment and change of government structure; Councilmember Ungar expressed gratitude for all the work our legal department and contracted legal team did to amend our codes thoroughly.

For the Community Relations Committee, Councilmember Seren had no legislation to present.

For the Finance Committee, Councilmember Hart presented the following legislation:

  • Ordinance 157-2021: First Reading. An Ordinance authorizing the execution of a Property Schedule to a Master Tax-Exempt Lease/Purchase Agreement between U.S. Bancorp Government Leasing and Finance, Inc., as lessor, and the City, as lessee, for the purpose of acquiring an aerial ladder fire truck including related equipment and appurtenances, and declaring an emergency. This was on first reading only and will be voted on at a later meeting.
  • Ordinance 158-2021: First Reading. An Ordinance to amend certain subparagraphs of Ordinance No. 127-2020 (F) and subsequent amending ordinances, relating to appropriations and other expenditures of the City of Cleveland Heights, Ohio for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2021; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0. Councilmember Hart clarified that this ordinance makes no impact on the budget.
  • Ordinance 139-2021: Third Reading. An Ordinance to make appropriations for the current expenses and other expenditures of the City of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, for the period of January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2022; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0. Councilmember Hart clarified that this for next year’s budget but that next year’s council and mayor can make revisions as needed.

For the Municipal Services Committee, Councilmember Moore presented the following legislation:

  • Resolution 159-2021: First Reading. A Resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into an agreement with the County of Cuyahoga to perform certain services to help maintain the City’s sanitary and storm sewers; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0.

For the Planning and Development Committee, Councilmember Ungar presented the following legislation:

  • Resolution 154-2021: Third Reading. A Resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into a Development Agreement with F&C Development, Inc. concerning the “Cedar-Lee Meadowbrook” development; and declaring an emergency. See below for vote.

Councilmember Ungar made a statement noting that our city has not been engaging in development as other cities in the region have. He stated that this is a major investment in the district and businesses and that our city needs it. He thanked Flaherty & Collins and City Architecture for their investment in our city and noted the high amount of public engagement that has already occurred to shape the evolution of this project. He is looking forward to see how it continues to evolve.

Council Vice President Seren thanked staff for negotiating the agreement, noting that there is no perfect development but that it is a step in the right direction. He stated that he does not think that a well-designed park is a bad idea but that he does not think it is the best idea presented. He said that Cleveland Heights needs to grow to be competitive in the region and that we need to embrace progress, to balance progress with preservation. He believes this will be net benefit to our city as a whole in addition to the business district.

Councilmember Hart stated that this project is good for our business district and good for the individual businesses. She noted that it will increase our tax base and therefore ease the tax burden for the rest of Cleveland Heights. She noted that this will also grow our population, continuing the first year of population growth experienced last year for the first time in decades.

Councilmember Cobb stated that the City has been trying to develop this site since the early 2000s. He read an excerpt from a blog from a resident from 2006 expressing disappointment in the dissolution of a project at that time. He emphasized that other attempts to develop this site have fallen through and reiterated that Cleveland Heights is being left behind economically and that we need this development to remain competitive.

Councilmember Moore stated that, as a proponent of environmental sustainability, she agrees that some green spaces should be protected but sustainability in an urban-suburban context also requires building density and increasing walkability. She also noted the importance of strengthening our local economy. She reiterated Seren’s note that this is not a perfect development agreement, but that it is a good compromise and that the development will be good for the city. She expressed her belief in City Architecture’s commitment to ensuring this project is good for the district and our community. She also expressed gratitude to the park activists for greater green space, as their advocacy has made the project better. She states that this development project, if done well, will open more possibilities for all of Cleveland Heights. (You can read my full statement HERE.)

Council President Stein stated that the Top of the Hill and MetroHealth expansion developments are good for Cleveland Heights and that this development will likewise be good for our city.

Resolution 154-2021 Passed 6-0.

For the Public Safety and Health Committee, Councilmember Cobb had no legislation to present.

Councilmember Ungar made a statement in response to the numerous public comments praising Councilmember Russell, saying that she is indeed an excellent councilmember, adding that all councilmembers represent all residents of Cleveland Heights.

Council President Stein then adjourned the meeting.