January 10, 2022 CoW and City Council Meetings

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Committee of the Whole

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

Council President Melody Hart called the meeting to order. She first called for a legislative overview and asked for a discussion of the Cedar-Meadowbrook park initiative.

Law Director Bill Hanna stated that on the agenda for the City Council meeting is a certification by the Clerk of Council that the People for the Park did obtain sufficient petition signatures for the initiative petition to move through the steps outlined in the City Charter. The next steps under the Charter, which the City is mandated to follow by the Ohio revised code, are:

  1. The Clerk of Council is to certify to Council that sufficient signatures were obtained.
  2. At that meeting, the proposed measure is to be read by the Clerk and then referred by Council to a committee of Council, which can be the Committee of the Whole or a different committee.
  3. While not required, the charter also provides for public hearings before that committee.
  4. That committee has until the second regular meeting after the meeting when it was certified to report back to the full Council with its recommendations. (That meeting would February 7, 2022.)
  5. At that meeting, Council can determine to (1) adopt the proposed legislation, (2) not adopt the proposed legislation, or (3) adopt it in a way that is different from what has been proposed.
  6. If Council does not approve the legislation or approves it in a way that is different from what was submitted, then the petition group has 10 days to decide whether it will require that Council send the measure to the voters for a popular vote.
  7. If it is not approved or approved in a revised form, and the petition group wants it put on the ballot, then Council must order that, by resolution, for it to appear at the next general or primary election that occurs within 60 to 120 days from that date. If there is no scheduled election within that time, then there must be a special election.

During the process, Council does not have any ability to say whether they believe the ordinance is unconstitutional or defective and, therefore, not act on it. The Council must proceed according to the steps laid out in the charter.

Council President Hart confirmed that the timeline is very tight if the initiative is to get on the May 3 ballot. Hanna stated that it would need to be sent to the Board of Elections at least 60 days prior, which would be early March. He noted that if Council used all the steps available, it would not reach that deadline, and a special election would need to be held.

Councilmember Davida Russell asked how this affects the signed agreement the City has with Flaherty & Collins. Hanna replied that, in his opinion, it does not affect the signed agreement by virtue of provisions in the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions that prohibit retroactive ex post facto laws that impair the obligations of contracts (Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Section 28 of the Ohio Constitution). Both of these say that a legislature cannot adopt a law that substantially undercuts or impairs obligations from a previous or existing contract. These provisions apply with equal force to legislation enacted by the electorate. The City is now in a valid contract with Flaherty & Collins, and to pass a law that impairs that contract is prohibited by these constitutions. However, Council cannot make a judgment of constitutionality (only a court can do that) and, thus, not follow the directives of our charter; Council is duty-bound to proceed through these steps.

Councilmember Russell asked when we entered into the contract. Hanna then discussed a provision in the measure that states that “All construction activities associated with the Site be suspended as of the certification of this petition.” Hanna stated that language does not have any affect unless and until either Council adopts the ordinance or the voters approve it. He added that, in this case, in his legal opinion, the Constitution would prohibit it, so it would not have any force or effect upon passage.

Councilmember Tony Cuda again asked for the date that the contract was signed. Hanna said he believes it was December 9, 2021, and Brian Anderson of the Economic Development Department stated that he would double-check but he believes that is correct.

Councilmember Josie Moore then stated that it is her understanding that Council is bound by the charter to proceed down a path that may lead the City to do something that is unconstitutional. Hanna reiterated that the City cannot determine what is or is not unconstitutional. He added that it is for this reason the City did not publicly state that this initiative would likely be ruled unconstitutional while citizens were gathering signatures, because that could be seen as interfering in that signature-gathering process.

With no further questions, Council President Hart then gave the floor to Councilmember Cuda, who asked to clarify Mayor Seren’s policy for Council emails to City staff (who report to the City administration—the Mayor). Mayor Seren clarified that Council can make inquiries of City staff (but may not direct City staff) and that all emails should all cc the Mayor so he may be aware of what is happening.

Council President Hart then discussed the new Council Committees. She stated that there should be a Finance Committee meeting in January about the allocation of ARPA funds for the Noble and Taylor areas. She added that committee, board, and commission appointments are needed, so there should be an Administrative Services Committee meeting as soon as possible.

Councilmember Russell asked about the Finance Committee meeting, as the residents and business owners have not finalized their requests for those funds. Council President Hart emphasized that having their final requests for this meeting is important.

Councilmember Cuda asked which staff member can best advise about compliance with ARPA funds. Mayor Seren replied that the Finance Director is the authority on those questions, with input from the Law Department if needed.

Council President Hart and Mayor Seren then led the review of the legislation on the agenda for the City Council meeting.

  • Ordinance 002-2022: First Reading. An Ordinance to amend certain subparagraphs of Ordinance No. 139-2021 (F), relating to appropriations and other expenditures of the City of Cleveland Heights, Ohio for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2022; and declaring an emergency.

This is a small modification totaling approximately $7,500 for increase in employee incentives, salaries, and pensions, which is offset by other revenues.

  • Resolution 003-2022: First Reading. A Resolution requesting Cuyahoga County to proceed with the resurfacing of Coventry Road from Fairhill Road to Euclid Heights Boulevard in the City of Cleveland Heights resolving to pay one hundred percent (100%) of the non-OPWC share for the construction and construction supervision of the traffic signal and associated work within the City of Cleveland Heights.
  • Resolution 004-2022: First Reading. A Resolution authorizing the Mayor to apply for grant funding under the Cuyahoga County Department of Development’s 2022 Community Development Supplemental Grant program to implement local and regional bicycle infrastructure improvements within the City of Cleveland Heights; and declaring an emergency.

Mayor Seren noted that this bicycle infrastructure work will be focused around Compton, Taylor, and the Noble Road Corridor. He stated that there is a possibility of a Transportation for Livable Cities Initiative (TLCI) grant to augment this work.

Councilmember Russell asked whether the target areas are definite; Mayor Seren confirmed that they are.

Councilmember Moore asked whether, in order to meet deadlines for applying for the CDSG grant, this legislation needs to be voted on that evening; Mayor Seren confirmed that it did.

  • Ordinance 161-2021: Second Reading. An Ordinance providing for the issuance and sale of not to exceed $3,100,000 of economic development nontax revenue bonds for the purpose of refunding the City’s outstanding Parking Deck Improvement Refunding Bonds, Series 2015, dated April 30, 2015, which were issued for the purpose of constructing and equipping a multi-level parking deck and improving the site thereof; and declaring an emergency.
  • Resolution 001-2022: First Reading. A Resolution amending standing committees of Council and outlining each committee’s general responsibilities by subject matter; repealing Resolution No. 2020-1; and declaring an emergency.

Councilmember Cuda asked about which streets are slated to be resurfaced next. Mayor Seren said he did not have that information on hand, but he shared that both the City and County have a schedule of road grading, which determines which roads will be worked on next. Mayor Seren said he would get in touch with the County and our own Public Works Department to see what information he can obtain on that question.

Councilmember Cuda asked, in reference to Ordinance 161-2021, given that the City will transfer ownership of the Cedar-Lee parking garage to Flaherty & Collins at some point in the future, how long does the City continue to make debt payments for the garage? Finance Director Himmelein stated that this refinancing will extend the payments to 2033, at which time ownership of the garage will transfer to Flaherty & Collins, and they will then be responsible for all taxes, maintenance, and other costs of the garage.

Councilmember Russell then notified Mayor Seren that large amounts of grant funds have recently become available that could be used to demolish the dairy, as well as many abandoned homes that are in severe disrepair. Mayor Seren said that he had spoken to Police Chief Mecklenburg just earlier that day, and there are plans to work on this.

Council President Hart then moved on to discussion of the Council retreat. She stated that we need to develop Council rules, which expired December 31, 2021, and we need to revise and reinstate them; these cover topics such as how we interact with each other and the public, how we legislate, rules for councilmembers holding public meetings, and so on. Hart requested assistance from staff in compiling a packet of rules used by other cities that we can review before the retreat and consider for our own rules. Next, Hart would like to discuss at the retreat strategy and visioning: where do we want our city to be, and how do plan to get there, and what goals does Council set for our own work? This retreat will be public via livestream. Hart then collected times and dates Councilmembers are available.

Councilmember Cuda requested that the retreat begins with a discussion that would establish among Council common notions of collaboration and consensus. He asked that certain discussion questions be included, and he stated that he would email Hart the questions he’s thinking about.

Hart then also reviewed changes to City Council meetings she will be instituting. To begin, when each councilmember provides their committee report and presents legislation, that is all they do at that time; if councilmembers wish to make further remarks not related to the Council Committee they represent, then there will be time for that toward the end of the meeting, and this time will be limited to 3 minutes for each. Hart also requested that we always address each other and our residents with respect and decorum. She also raised the question of whether Council should continue to hold Committee of the Whole meetings every week.

Councilmember Russell asked whether our charter requires we have City Council meetings on the first and third Monday of every month. Hanna clarified that this was established by ordinance, not our charter.

Council President Hart then opened the meeting to other business.

Councilmember Moore then presented a first draft of a resolution for Council’s review. This resolution would declare climate change an emergency and establish a Cleveland Heights Environmental Sustainability Committee. This committee would work in two phases. During the first phase, estimated to take two years, the committee would have 25 members and would oversee either the creation of a climate action plan or the City’s certification by LEED for Cities and Communities; the committee itself would decide which is a better fit for Cleveland Heights. Thereafter, during the second phase, which would be permanent, the committee would reduce to 11 members and would ensure that the plan created during the first phase is implemented and would revise the plan as appropriate. In addition, a seat will be made available on each Council Committee for a nonvoting, advisory member of the Sustainability Committee to provide a voice for sustainability in all of Council’s decision-making. Councilmember Moore then asked that everyone review the materials distributed and that Council President Hart make room for a discussion of this resolution at the next Committee of the Whole meeting; Hart agreed.

Councilmember Anthony Mattox raised the discussion that councilmembers should have City laptops for risk and loss mitigation purposes but also for onboarding, training, and efficient, secure digital storage of City documents. These laptops would be issued to councilmembers when they are sworn in and returned to the City when their term in office ends. He also noted that this would reduce the amount of paper being printed. Councilmember Russell affirmed the idea and added that she believes councilmembers also need their own cell phones with a phone number separate from their personal numbers.

Before adjourning, Law Director Hanna stated that during the meeting he had researched a discussion point from earlier in the meeting—when the Cedar-Lee parking garage may transfer ownership and whether it is automatic or optional. He confirmed that the transfer of ownership of the parking garage to Flaherty & Collins is mandatory the day after the debt is paid off. The ground underneath it remains part of the ground lease. At that time, the City is no longer responsible for the taxes and maintenance costs of the garage, and in the meantime, Flaherty & Collins will be paying a percentage of the costs in line with the percentage of spaces their tenants occupy.

Council President Hart 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 Hart called the meeting called to order. She immediately noted that, due to COVID restrictions, no more than 17 residents are allowed in Council Chambers during a meeting.

The Clerk of Council called the roll: Present: Hart, Cobb, Russell, Moore, Cuda, and Mattox. The Clerk confirmed that there is a quorum.

Hart then approved minutes of the December 6, 2021 and December 13, 2021 City Council meetings, noting that any amendments should have been referred to the City Administrator by this time.

Hart then opened personal communications from our citizens. The Clerk of Council announced residents who had signed in to speak.

  • One resident asked the City to address a storefront renovation project on Mayfield Road, near the intersection Mayfield and Warrensville, on the south side of the street. She stated that the streetscapes and planters are larger than the front doors of the establishment and that she has not seen storefront renovations anywhere else like this. She asked for help from City staff in resolving the issue. Council President Hart referred the resident to Mayor Seren, and he said that he would reach out to her.
  • A resident spoke for People of the Park, congratulating the residents of Cleveland Heights for a successful exercise in direct democracy, as they obtained enough signatures for a ballot measure in May for a park at Cedar-Meadowbrook. She discussed the potential that the People of the Park see in the park project and the process of collecting the signatures.
  • A resident spoke to voice her opposition to the Cedar-Meadowbrook park initiative. She discussed the benefits of the Flaherty & Collins development, including increased tax revenues and a 1/3-acre park that will be built, paid for, and maintained by the developer; she noted that the park initiative to be put on the ballot, the building of which is estimated to be $2 million, is unfunded. She added that the businesses in the area, which have been struggling especially since the start of the pandemic, need this development to revitalize the business district.

Council President Hart then closed public comments.

Council President Hart called for Communications from the Mayor. Mayor Seren thanked Council President Hart for a well-run Committee of the Whole meeting. Seren wished the Council good luck moving forward in our first meeting. He reported that he has spent the last week gathering a great deal of information and putting in long hours at City Hall as he begins to fill his cabinet and rebuild the staff at City Hall. He anticipates that as he builds his team, he will have much more to communicate to Council and residents. He expressed appreciation to the staff for all the hard work and support during this transition. He stated that he has been touring all of the City’s facilities and noting where we need investment. He expressed that he is working to improve communications and responsiveness, and he recommended that people download the Access Cleveland Heights app to their phone, as it includes a way to submit service requests, and doing so will help the City more effectively track requests and complaints from residents. Mayor Seren stated that he is on the job and excited to begin this process with Council, staff, and residents.

Council President Hart called for the Report of the Clerk of Council.

Clerk of Council Amy Himmelein notified Council that a notice has been received from the Ohio Department of Liquor Control advising that an application has been made by Cleveland Heights Wing Co LLC, d/b/a Buffalo Wild Wings, 12459 Cedar Road & Patio, Cleveland Heights, OH 44106 for a transfer of a D5 and D6 permit from Ramb Co Cleveland Heights d/b/a/ Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, 12459 Cedar Road & Patio, Cleveland Heights, OH 44106. Council President Hart referred this to the Mayor, the Chief of Police, and the Director of Law.

Clerk of Council Himmelein then provided a certification of sufficient signatures of City electors upon an Initiative Petition for an Ordinance to require that a public activity park be created on 1.07 acres of city-owned land at the corner of Lee Road, Tullamore Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, submitted by a committee of electors of the City of Cleveland Heights consisting of Ralph Solonitz, Garry Kanter, Lee Barbee, Albert Oberst and Frances Mentch.

This Initiative Petition, originally submitted on November 29, 2021, with additional part petitions submitted on December 27, 2021, has been determined by the Board of Elections to have a total of 3,417 valid elector signatures. This exceeds the number required under Sections VIII-1 and VIII-4 of the Charter of the City of Cleveland Heights. Under Section VIII-1 of the City Charter, the proposed measure will be read on January 10, 2022 and referred to a Council Committee, which may be the Committee of the Whole. The Committee to which it is referred may provide for public hearings on the measure, and shall report and make recommendations to the full Council concerning the proposed legislation not later than the 2nd regular meeting of Council following this Certification and corresponding referral to Committee.

The Clerk then read the entirety of the petition into the record. The language of the ordinance can be found on page 8 of the PACKET.

Council President Hart then referred this to the Committee of the Whole, to be discussed at the following meeting, to be held January 18.

Hart then asked Law Director Bill Hanna: If this initiative is approved by the voters, will that negate our agreements with Flaherty & Collins? Hanna replied that it is his legal opinion that passage of the ordinance by Council or approval of the ordinance by the voters of Cleveland Heights will not undo the development agreement between the City and Flaherty & Collins due to the U.S. and Ohio constitutional prohibitions against the retroactive impairment of contracts. These prohibitions apply with equal force whether the legislation is adopted by a legislative body or by the voters. In either case, the impairment of a duly executed contract by a law passed after the contract was executed is unconstitutional.

Hart confirmed that the City Council meeting at which the Committee of the Whole must provide their recommendation—whether Council should accept, reject, or amend the ordinance—would be February 7.

Councilmember Tony Cuda asked to confirm whether it is the Law Department’s recommendation that Council proceed to put this on the ballot. Hanna replied yes, “with an asterisk”: Council does not have an option to not to follow the procedures under the city charter.

Councilmember Russell asked Hanna to repeat the constitutional articles, which he then did: Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Section 28 of the Ohio Constitution.

Council President Hart then stated that, beginning tonight, during committee reports, councilmembers will only present committee reports and legislation. She also added that if there is discussion of any legislation, comments should be limited to two minutes. For additional comments from Council, there is now an item at the bottom of the agenda.

For the Administrative Services Committee, Councilmember Craig Cobb had no committee report.

Council President Hart presented the following legislation:

  • Resolution 001-2022: First Reading. A Resolution amending standing committees of Council and outlining each committee’s general responsibilities by subject matter; repealing Resolution No. 2020-1; and declaring an emergency.

This would add a seventh Council Committee, one that focuses on housing: the Building and Housing Committee.

Councilmember Tony Cuda asked whether any other committees were revised; Hart replied that Finance was revised to add reporting, and no other changes were made. Cuda then introduced an amendment: that the Building and Housing Committee should be named the Housing and Building Committee to emphasize the importance of housing. The amendment passed 6-0.

Resolution 001-2022, as amended, passed 6-0.

For the Communications and Recreation Committee, Councilmember Russell had no report or legislation to present.

For the Finance Committee, Council President Hart announced that there will be a Finance Committee meeting sometime this month to discuss allocation of ARPA funds for the Noble and Taylor areas; please stay tuned for the date of that meeting to be announced. Hart then presented the following legislation:

  • Ordinance 161-2021: Second Reading. An Ordinance providing for the issuance and sale of not to exceed $3,100,000 of economic development nontax revenue bonds for the purpose of refunding the City’s outstanding Parking Deck Improvement Refunding Bonds, Series 2015, dated April 30, 2015, which were issued for the purpose of constructing and equipping a multi-level parking deck and improving the site thereof; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0.
  • Ordinance 002-2022: First Reading. An Ordinance to amend certain subparagraphs of Ordinance No. 139-2021 (F), relating to appropriations and other expenditures of the City of Cleveland Heights, Ohio for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2022; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0.

For the Municipal Services Committee, Councilmember Moore had no committee report and presented the following legislation:

  • Resolution 003-2022: First Reading. A Resolution requesting Cuyahoga County to proceed with the resurfacing of Coventry Road from Fairhill Road to Euclid Heights Boulevard in the City of Cleveland Heights resolving to pay one hundred percent (100%) of the non-OPWC share for the construction and construction supervision of the traffic signal and associated work within the City of Cleveland Heights. Passed 6-0.

For the Planning and Development Committee, Councilmember Mattox reported that the public can expect to see a Planning and Development Committee meeting scheduled in February. Mattox then presented the following legislation:

  • Resolution 004-2022: First Reading. A Resolution authorizing the Mayor to apply for grant funding under the Cuyahoga County Department of Development’s 2022 Community Development Supplemental Grant program to implement local and regional bicycle infrastructure improvements within the City of Cleveland Heights; and declaring an emergency. Passed 6-0.

For the Public Safety and Health Committee, Councilmember Cuda had no committee report and had no legislation to present.

Council President Hart then opened the floor for Council comments.

Councilmember Russell announced that, because the Finance Committee will be meeting soon to discuss allocation of ARPA funds for the Noble and Taylor areas, Russell will be conducting outreach and scheduling a meeting immediately to obtain input and guidance from residents and business owners so she can provide that report to the Finance Committee.

Councilmember Cuda expressed enthusiasm to be chairing the Housing and Building Committee, seeing it as a great opportunity for the city. He also welcomed Mayor Seren, thanked him for implementing the COVID protocols at City Hall, and requested a “State of the City” address so residents can hear from him and learn more about his plans. Mayor Seren replied that he anticipates addressing Council and the people of Cleveland Heights regularly, stating that he thinks these communications should occur more frequently than annually. He is currently planning a quarterly State of the City, as well as more frequent updates that will cover smaller issues.

Council President Hart asked to confirm that Mayor Seren would be addressing the Cleveland Heights Democrats on January 13; the Mayor stated he has been invited to speak at the club’s upcoming meeting, and he invited other groups in the city to reach out if they would like him to speak at any of their events.

Council President Hart then asked the public to keep an eye on the calendar for these Council Committee meetings that will soon be scheduled. She announced that more changes to meeting protocols will soon be coming as well, including limiting public comments at the beginning of City Council meetings to those that address agenda items, and adding a time toward the end of meeting for other public comments. Hart reminded everyone that the City is in a state of transition and asked for the public’s patience and understanding during this time. Regarding the appointment of the vacant Council seat, Hart announced that there has been an Executive Committee meeting to discuss the applications and that the League of Women Voters will be conducting short interviews with all the applicants, which should be completed soon. (Those interviews are now complete and can be accessed HERE.) After reviewing the interviews, Council will narrow down a list of finalists, who will be asked to engage in interviews with Council. Hart announced that there will be no City Council meetings on Monday, January 17, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day; the Committee of the Whole and City Council meetings will take place on Tuesday, January 18.

Council President Hart then adjourned the meeting.