Observer Reports

Finance Committee, Nov. 18, 2019

November 25th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present: Council members Sean Malone (chair), Nancy Moore, Earl Williams, and Robert Zimmerman; citizen members Linda Lalley, Anthony Moore

Others present: Mayor David Weiss, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Interim Director of Finance Frank Brichacek, Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Arslanian, Director of Economic Development Laura E. Englehart, Human Resources Manager Sandra Middleton, and Fire Chief Patrick Sweeney

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Malone at 7:33 a.m.

Agenda—Committee actions:

  1. Sean Malone presented the minutes of the Oct. 21, 2019, meeting for approval. There were several typing errors and omission of names in the document such that approval was deferred until the members could review further.
  2. Ms. Englehart presented a recommendation to: (1) approve Tax Increment Financing (TIF) on the new Wendy’s restaurant at Chagrin Boulevard and Warrensville Center Road; and (2) authorize entering into a School Compensation Agreement to share proceeds with the Shaker Heights City School District. The proposed Wendy’s TIF could be used only (1) for public improvements such as traditional infrastructure, land acquisition, environmental improvements, or utilities; and (2) in the geographical area of the Van Aken District to generally benefit the TIF property. The proposed TIF structure on the Wendy’s property would be: 100% exemption from real estate taxes over a 30-year term; in each of years 1-15, the city would receive 62% of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) and the schools would receive 38%; in each of years 16-30, the city would receive 38% and the schools would receive 62%.

Mr. Zimmerman asked if the estimated increases in revenue for the city and schools were based on a property appraisal. Ms. Englehart replied that a new appraisal by the county had not been completed, so the estimate was 80% of the construction value of the new building. Mayor Weiss added that the county would perform a new appraisal in 2020. Mr. Williams wanted to know the capitalized value of the building, as the county would want to know that value for their appraisal; he also wondered if the school system asked about that number. Mr. Weiss replied the City has arranged with the schools to revisit this estimate next year. Ms. Lalley asked why the city was receiving the larger share in the first half of the TIF period and the schools getting the larger share in the last half. Mr. Weiss said the schools and city agreed everyone wanted to accelerate economic development in the Van Aken District. Ms. Englehart added that this TIF could only be used for public improvement projects. Ms. Lalley stated that some residents believe TIFs are just tax breaks and they need to be better explained by the school board. Ms. Moore added that Ms. Lalley had given the best explanation of TIFs at a community meeting several years ago; perhaps that could happen again. Mr. Malone asked if other locations were being considered for TIFs. Ms. Englehart and Mr. Weiss said that the Lee Road corridor was a likely recipient for a TIF. The recommendation was approved.

  • Ms. Englehart presented a second recommendation to extend the time for Shaker Heights Development Corporation (SHDC) to repay a $27,200 loan, from January 2020 to January 2023. The interest rate will remain at 1% per year, and repaid loan proceeds will return to the Economic Development and Housing Reserve Fund. The former nonprofit Fund for the Future (FFF) ceased operations in 2012 and transferred its reserves and outstanding receivables to SHDC, in part to support commercial and neighborhood development in the Moreland and Lomond neighborhoods. SHDC, during this past three-year period, rebranded and improved The Dealership co-working facility, which is now consistently at 85-90% occupancy; facilitated real estate acquisitions and improvements along Lee Road, including helping Protem Healthcare Services and Process Canine open and expand in previously vacant properties, which brought more than 50 new employees to the Lee Road corridor; implemented targeted streetscape enhancements at the intersection of Lee and Hampstead roads; and began to convene the Van Aken and Chagrin-Lee business associations. Given these early successes and the need to continue the momentum of these new and updated economic development strategies, SHDC has requested a three-year extension for the repayment of the $27,200 loan until January 2023.

Linda Lalley voiced her support of the SHDC and her approval for extending the loan terms, then asked if the City should convert the loan to a grant. Mr. Weiss replied that the SHDC has a new philosophy and direction and that a conversion might come in the future—but that for now he wished to see some success come from the new SHDC direction. The recommendation was approved.

  • Ms. Middleton presented a recommendation to amend the city’s codified ordinances to give firefighters and law enforcement officers the opportunity to request up to three 12-month waivers of the mandatory retirement age to extend employment to the age of 63, subject to a fitness-for-duty examination and the employee’s prior performance reviews, and that the mayor be authorized to grant waivers of the mandatory retirement age for administrative firefighter and law enforcement personnel. These changes would make the city’s ordinance consistent with negotiated labor agreements.

Mr. Moore asked if the proposed change to the ordinance agreed with the Ohio codes. Ms. Middleton replied that it did. Mr. Malone asked about “administrative” people and Ms. Middleton replied it pertained to the Fire Chief, Police Chief, Assistant Chiefs and other experienced personnel in these departments who were not subject to the collective bargaining agreement. Ms. Moore added the mandatory retirement is by law. Mr. Moore asked if the collective bargaining agreement contained appeal rights. Ms. Middleton replied that it did. Mr. Malone asked if the extension required a physical exam. Ms. Middleton answered that it did, and even though employees could use their personal physicians, physicians must confirm that they have read and understand the physical requirements for the job. Ms. Moore wanted to know what caused the city to request this change. Ms. Chaikin responded that the desire to retain experienced personnel drove this request. Mr. Weiss added that many cities do not have mandatory retirement ordinances and Shaker wished to retain its experienced professionals. The recommendation was approved.

Mr. Malone adjourned the meeting at 8:04 a.m.

Frank Goforth, observer

Neighborhood Revitalization and Development Committee, Oct. 10, 2019

November 14th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Application to Acquire City Owned Vacant Lot at 3307 Sutton Road for Side Lot and Application to Acquire City Owned Vacant Lot at 3713 Strandhill Road for Side Lot

Both of these proposals requested permission to purchase the vacant lot next to the owner’s property for the purpose of landscaping and to use the land as a side yard or to enlarge the existing back yard.

It is important to note that both applicants met the following criteria:

1. The applicants’ property isn’t in foreclosure, they’re current in their property taxes, and have had no criminal nuisance activity complaints. They have no outstanding Housing or Zoning Code violations.

2. The applicants’ proposal is consistent with the city and neighborhood goal of expanding the size of lots in the neighborhood to enable households to have larger yards without selling their home and moving elsewhere.

3. The city has no redevelopment plans for the vacant lot.

4. Staff considers that the use of the lot as described in respective applications would be an improvement over its being maintained by the city as a vacant lot. It currently costs the city approximately $615 per year to maintain a vacant lot.

Both proposals were approved by unanimous vote.

Proposed Tax Increment Financing on Wendy’s Property

Background: The city is actively working to attract and create new economic development opportunities across the city. In the Van Aken District (VAD), the aim is to build on the current momentum of the first phase of the development. The city is proposing to use tax increment financing (TIF) as a tool to promote additional development of properties on Warrensville Center Road and Chagrin Boulevard in the greater VAD. The city is requesting that TIF be established for the demolition and construction of the new Wendy’s and wants to direct proceeds into a fund for future development activities. Specifically, this proposal is asking to approve the TIF and authorize entering into a School Compensation Agreement with the Shaker Heights City School District.

So what is a TIF?

The goal of a TIF is to generate payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) to pay for public infrastructure improvements that can attract or enable private development. A property subject to a TIF is exempt from real estate taxes based on the future increase in assessed valuation of the property (which results from property improvements).

When a TIF is created, it is valued at the time of the demolition (the base value). Taxes on the base value continue to be collected and distributed as if there were no TIF. The increase in the value of the property over the base value creates the increment that’s captured by the TIF. Instead of paying real estate taxes on that increment, the property owner pays PILOTs (which are put into a separate account) equal to the amount of taxes that would otherwise have been due on that increment. It is important to note that the goal is to ensure that the school district doesn’t get any less money, but actually get more.

The primary concern that was raised is that the schools rely primarily on revenue from property taxes and the city relies primarily on income taxes—and this plan “flips” the precedent. The mayor feels strongly that this is the best plan to keep the city competitive yet guarantee that this is not done at the expense of school funding.

This complicated proposal passed unanimously.

Eileen Anderson, observer

Sustainability Committee, Sept. 12, 2019

November 9th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Members Present: Council Member and Chair Julianna Senturia; Council Members Sean Malone and Anne Williams; Citizen Members Julianne Potter, Carmen Franks (through phone), and Norman Robbins.

Others present: Mayor David Weiss; Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin; Sustainability Coordinator Michael Peters; Will Piper of Lime Scooters, Director of Shaker Heights Planning Department Joyce Braverman, Shaker Heights City Planner Cameron Roberts.

The minutes of the August committee meeting were approved.

Lime Scooters: Ms. Braverman explains that the county released a request for proposals from bike and scooter share organizations, and Shaker signed on as an interested party. As part of that, Shaker was on the selection committee to decide what vendors would be chosen. The next step is looking at the city’s ordinances to determine where citizens can ride scooters and what the helmet laws are. These ordinances may need to be revised. Shaker will also have to speak with University Heights and Cleveland Heights, since some citizens may ride across city borders and therefore ordinances between the cities should be uniform. 

Euclid is also working on bringing scooters to the people, and Lakewood created a citizen survey to determine their feelings on doing the same. Shaker may similarly do a survey among the three cities to determine the public perception of scooters. Cleveland began deploying scooters in late August.

Ms. Braverman explained the need to choose rebalancing locations to put scooters when citizens terminate their rides. They have preliminary ideas, like at RTA stations and along trails and commercial districts. While riders can really leave their scooters in any safe location, if citizens take scooters to rebalancing locations, they will get credit for riding.

The mayor asked about helmet rules, and it was determined that while shaker has a helmet law for bikes, no one has a helmet law for scooters. While there is data regarding the safety of cities who utilize scooters, it has not been looked into yet.

The cost of rides will likely be 15 cents per minute. If a rider qualifies for governmental aid, the ride will be cheaper.

Subcommittees: Most subcommittees did not have updates, but Norman Robbins, who heads the Renewable Energy subcommittee, explained that he had been going to block parties and answering questions on solar panels. Some citizens with solar panels are interested in telling about their experience.

High School Advisory Group: Ms. Potter met with Torrey McMillan of Hathaway Brown School and is working on outreach to other schools. She was looking for a faculty contact at Shaker Heights High School to involve students. She is coordinating with another student who is working on this as a full project (unnamed).

LEED for Cities: Ms. Williams explained that there was a meeting later that day with Planning. The committee is currently on track with data and writing the documentation needed to submit to the program. 

City Energy Efficiency/Conservation Update: The city recently bid on electric contracts. We can enter into new contracts. All of the bids are for the Green-E certified energy program which is helpful for LEED certification. With a new contract, the city would be able to be supplied with 100 percent renewable energy. Buildings over 10,000 square feet can be audited; currently there are seven buildings to be audited to create an energy model for more information on what they need.

City Alternative Fuel Vehicle Update: Peters explained that the recommendation from the city technician, a potential vendor, and a representative from the police is to pilot one vehicle which would cost $2800-3000. They are also reaching out to Beachwood to conduct a study to put sensors in vehicles to determine if they should be switched to electric vehicles.

Green Team Update: Mr. Peters explained that starting on Sept. 23, the city is conducting a 60-day pilot using regular coffee instead of K-cups to reduce plastic waste. 

Ryan Brady, LWV observer

Safety & Public Works Committee, Oct. 4, 2019

November 9th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Members Present: Nancy Moore, council member and chair; Julianna Senturia, Anne Williams, and Rob Zimmerman, council members; Jonathan Hren, Austin McGuan, and James Sammon, citizen members; David Weiss, mayor; Jeffrey DeMuth, chief of police; Patricia Speese, director of public works; Jeri Chaikin, chief administrative officer.

Others present: Jim Mariano, Precision Wildlife Management LTD, contractor for winter deer culling program.

The agenda and all supporting documents for this meeting may be found here:

The meeting was called to order at 8:00 a.m. by Nancy Moore, chair.

The minutes for the Sept. 6, 2019, meeting were approved:

The first order of business was to authorize an application for and potential acceptance of a Cuyahoga County Supplemental Grant for the Chagrin/Lynnfield intersection pedestrian and bicycle improvements. Chief DeMuth presented the plan for $50K in enhancements to the area, standing in for the Planning Department’s Ann Klavora, who could not attend the meeting. The committee approved the application. Neighbors support the project, which is one of four in the works. The other three are Shaker/Warrensville, South Woodland/Warrensville, and Van Aken/Lee. The deadline is October 31; the announcement will be sometime in spring 2020.

The next, and last, item on the agenda was the deer culling program, which generated lengthy discussion. Ms. Moore stated she scheduled this opportunity to exchange information since she thought it got short shrift in the September meeting. The contract has been approved (about $60,000 to harvest 40 deer). Mr. Zimmerman pointed out that the original memo about the program was not accurate and wanted clarification. The culling is planned for both public and private property, and 65% of residents approved culling on private property. The point under discussion was lot size for private property, and the committee wanted to be sure residents understand that a large lot is not a prerequisite for culling. The protocols for large and smaller lots are the same (approvals from property owners on all sides of the lot selected). The focus first will be larger tracts since baiting, harvesting, and removal are easier and safer. If the requisite deer are harvested, the city can apply to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for a permit to cull more.

Ms. Moore adjourned the meeting at 9:25 a.m.

Barbara Bradley

Joint Facilities Task Force, Oct. 17, 2019

November 9th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present: Shaker City’s David Weiss, Tres Roeder; Shaker School District’s Lisa Cremer, David Glasner, Jeff Isaacs; Shaker Library’s Michael Bertsch, Amy Switzer; citizen members Jim Neville, Stephanie Ryberg-Webster

Members Absent: Joyce Braverman, Vicki Elder, Brian Gleisser, Alexandria Nichols, Scott Stephens, Anne Williams

Others Present: Principal Planner Ann Klavora, Planner Cameron Roberts, Linda Lalley (Finance Committee)

Mayor Weiss opened the meeting at 2:05 p.m. with a short update on the City Hall second-floor relocation of the Building and Housing Department. The architects are now planning the office space needs and layout.

Ms. Switzer reported on the main library building status. The second-floor plan is complete and the architect has begun the first-floor plan; the second floor will be closed at year-end so that upgrades can begin.

Mr. Glasner reported that facilities plans are being made for summer 2020 renovations; long-term plans will be complete by the end of this year, and strategic plans will be revisited by the end of March 2020. He added that Fernway construction is on schedule for opening in August 2020.

Ms. Klavora presented the final version of “A Vision for Community Facilities” for approval. She had received multiple comments electronically and had incorporated them. She thanked all members for their diligence and then called for a vote of approval. The vision document was approved without further comment.

Ms. Klavora next presented the draft of a nonbinding administrative resolution formalizing the acceptance of the approved facilities vision plan by City Council. This draft, with any modifications made prior to Nov. 6, will be presented to the City Planning Commission on that date for its approval; it will then proceed for City Council approval on Nov. 18. Ms. Klavora then opened the meeting for discussion of the draft resolution.

Mr. Roeder asked what the term “accepts and supports” meant in terms of taking the specific actions being recommended in the facilities vision plan. Ms. Klavora answered that the resolution was a formal recommendation to City Council by the Joint Facilities Task Force. Mr. Roeder added that he hoped this would lead to action rather than having the document filed away. Mayor Weiss agreed, calling the facilities vision and the resolution a first step to action. He continued that the vision requires more and continuing work and provides some order for the process; many details are yet to be identified, agreed on, and implemented. Dr. Glasner said that it’s was a milestone when three taxing bodies agree on a coordinating facilities vision. Mayor Weiss stated the vision would be open to midcourse changes. Mr. Roeder reminded everyone that there were still three independent facilities planning groups and three different capital plans being followed and forecast into the future; he wanted to know when they would be combined and get tangible coordinated work started. He continued by stating we are moving in the right direction, but the challenge is to show some cooperative projects. Mr. Isaacs suggested that three-six months might be a good target to set for a coordinated project. Mr. Roeder added that the city’s and school district’s populations are declining, reducing their budgets, so this group should take on the difficult questions. Dr. Glasner replied that the school board is not yet looking at the combination of the three bodies in either their long-term or strategic plan. Mayor Weiss said the city would not be taking independent action without consulting the library board or the school board; this task force is a venue for sharing and working together. He continued: there will be many opportunities in the future to consider individual projects in concert with everyone; could the three bodies agree on this before the end of the year? Dr. Glasner and Mr. Bertsch agreed to bring these issues to their respective boards.

Mayor Weiss then offered some specific minor word changes to the draft resolution. Ms. Klavora agreed to make the changes and distribute the new draft electronically for the task force members to approve. No further changes were submitted.

Ms. Klavora then introduced a spreadsheet that had been constructed to inventory all the facilities of the city, the schools, and the library, as well as a list of 30 parameters to be measured for each facility. The spreadsheet included all buildings and parks, but did not yet include sports fields. She then asked the task force members:

  • What information is needed?
    • Do we need to fill in all the data in order to make decisions?
    • Can we move forward without all the details?
    • Do we need to add private schools or religious property?
    • Should the task force bring in consultants from Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland State or Case Western to help?

Mr. Neville recommended that the task force could start evaluating projects and prioritizing work without drilling down in detail on every piece of capital. Mayor Weiss added that he was initially hoping for a “30,000-foot view,” but if we say we want another ball field and someone asks how many we have, we need to be able to answer how many and where; but he doesn’t want to drown in details. Ms. Klavora reminded everyone that the task force members need to decide what data is important in order to continue. Mr. Neville stated the group needed to start with near-term goals and the data needed. Ms. Ryberg-Webster remarked that the hours used by each facility owner needed to be measured in order to judge the feasibility of alternate uses, along with a map location of each facility so that adjacency to other city/school/library facilities could be known. Dr. Glasner said that he was concerned about spending resources with no identified use for the data. Mr. Neville recommended the task force start using the existing data in the spreadsheet to identify possible actions, which in turn could highlight any additional data that’s missing or not relevant.

This LWV observer had to leave the meeting at 3 p.m. The meeting adjourned at 3:19 p.m. The official audio for the meeting is available, but of poor quality.

Frank Goforth, LWV observer

Finance Committee, Oct. 21, 2019

November 9th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present: Council members Sean Malone (chair), Nancy Moore, Earl Williams, Robert Zimmerman; citizen members Tom Cicarella, Linda Lalley, Martin Kolb, Anthony Moore

Others present: Mayor David Weiss, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Director of Neighborhood Revitalization Kamla Lewis, Director of Recreation Alexandria Nichols, Chief of Police Jeffrey DeMuth, Interim Director of Finance Frank Brichacek, Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Arslanian, Principal Planner Ann Klavora, Planner Cameron Roberts, Matthew Stuczynski of MAS Financial Advisory Service

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Malone at 7:30 a.m.

Agenda—Committee actions:

  • The minutes of the Sept. 16, 2019, meeting were approved without comment.
  • Ms. Lewis presented a request to approve an application from Lila Campoblanco, 3304 Sutton Road, who is interested in acquiring the city-owned vacant lot at 3308 Sutton Road, adjacent to her home, in order to expand her lot, which has no backyard.
  • Ms. Lewis also presented a second request to approve an application from Tim and Melissa Kalan, 3614 Glencairn Road, who are interested in acquiring the city-owned vacant lot at 3713 Strandhill Road, behind their home, in order to expand their lot. The Neighborhood Revitalization & Development (NRD) Committee considered both applications at its Oct. 10 meeting and recommended both sales.

Mr. Kolb fully endorsed the program but asked why the costs to buyers were different and might they complain later. Ms. Lewis replied that there was no standard cost and all buyers were aware of historical prices for previous sales. She added that the lots were of different sizes and uses—the buyers had to submit a usage proposal, not just an offer. Ms. Moore added that buyers are required to combine the deeds of their existing and new property, which is a significant cost; however, the property value almost always is increased. Mr. Cicarella appreciated the proposal to add trees to the property purchased by the Kalan family and asked if the city might require tree planting on all proposals. Ms. Lewis agreed, but did not commit to a requirement; instead, she shared that the other buyer had modified their proposal to use a “living fence” rather than the chain-link fence originally proposed. Both proposals were approved.

  • Ms. Nichols presented a request that the Finance Committee recommend to City Council an increase in hockey fees of approximately 5 percent to be implemented in spring of 2020 for the 2020-21 season. The rink operates at a deficit each year and must be subsidized by the city. The subsidy has grown 140 percent since 2015. This fee increase will place Shaker fees in the middle range when compared to other public and private rinks in the Cleveland area. However, the subsidy will not be reduced by this fee increase.

Mr. Malone said that another meeting might be in order to discuss the rink subsidy and the possibility of commercial sponsorship. Ms. Moore wanted to know how much of the recreation department subsidy was used to support the rink, and added that she wished to know where the money came from and how it was replenished. Ms. Chaikin answered that the subsidy came from the city’s general fund. Ms. Moore noted that the subsidy had grown by $100,000 last year (from $523,000 to $615,000) and wondered if it would grow by $200,000 next year. Ms. Nichols said the fee increase is an attempt to balance expenses with revenue, since the rink ice has to be maintained 24 hours a day, but the subsidy is needed. Ms. Chaikin said that the recreation department will be tracking finances to specific programs beginning next year. (Observer note: The ice rink is open 103 of the 168 hours in a week; the number of users and operating cost/hour was not shared.) Ms. Lalley wanted to hear more about sponsorships. Mr. Malone replied that some public rinks in the area have received sponsorships from large commercial firms. Mr. Williams added that he and his children had used the ice rink for many years and it was always subsidized by the city; he suggested we might need to better forecast the deficit and set some subsidy limit. Mr. Cicarella commented that many ice rinks have gone bankrupt, some several times, so they are not profitable. Ms. Nichols added that the Cleveland Heights public rink and the Cleveland Skating Club private rink were the nearby competition for the Thornton rink. Mr. Kolb asked why the difference in the presentation between revenue and expense for the rink did not match the subsidy amount. Ms. Arslanian replied that the subsidy is for the entire recreation department, not the rink alone. Mr. Kolb remarked that the subsidy needed to be tracked by program. David Weiss said that the rink and indeed all of Thornton Park form a priority subject of the Joint Facilities Task Force. Mr. Malone asked when the next big capital project for Thornton Park would come before the Finance Committee. Ms. Nichols replied the next capital proposal would be in 2021; there is perhaps 9-10 years of useful life for the ice rink. Mr. Malone added that the committee needed a more in-depth work session on the recreation department. Ms. Lalley asked if community support for an ice rink was still strong. Ms. Nichols replied that it was. The request was approved.

  • Chief DeMuth presented a request that the Finance Committee support a proposal from Precision Wildlife Management for the 2019-20 Deer Management Program with a cost not to exceed $68,000. The Wildlife Task Force has recommended that the city continue the deer management program for 2019-20, and that deer management additionally be permitted on private property, with the consent of property owners and their adjacent residents. It has become obvious that deer move to private property when management is constrained to public property.

Mr. Williams wanted to know if private property included residential and commercial. Chief DeMuth replied: yes, any property that presented a safe environment for management would be considered. Mr. Zimmerman had attended the Safety and Public Works meeting where deer management was considered and he shared some comments: there were extensive discussions regarding deer management protocol and procedures followed, particularly in regards to public safety, and that he suggested the Finance Committee limit the discussion to the costs. Mr. Cicarella understood the need for the program but wished to know more about the actual process. Mr. DeMuth described the process in detail and then added a comment specific to safety: “This is not deer hunting.” He continued that there is always a spotter and marksman, and the marksman, James Mariano, is a former Shaker policeman and an expert technical marksman; he only shoots downward and counts every shot taken; last year he shot 40 times, yielding 40 deer. Mr. Kolb asked when this fall the process would begin. Mr. Demuth replied that the herd tracking would begin immediately, but the process begins in late December. Ms. Lalley asked if this was productive, compared to other cities. Mr. Demuth answered that neighbor cities do not manage deer and that herds can grow 20 percent a year; some cities, like Highland Heights, have allowed very large herds. Mr. Zimmerman spoke again about the larger issue: discussions have occurred with neighboring cities but they have not joined in a coordinated management operation. Cleveland Heights, Beachwood and Pepper Pike have polled residents but chosen not to address their deer problem, so the deer move there. A regional solution would be better for all but there is no interest. Mr. Moore wished to know why the Shaker Heights Country Club would not agree to allow deer management on their property. Mayor Weiss answered that they asked their members and the answer was no. Mr. Malone asked if the management company was insured. Mr. DeMuth assured they were insured for liability. Mr. Cicarella asked if the Natural Resources Department had any concern about Lyme disease. Mr. DeMuth answered that there was not a specific concern about Lyme disease, but that the Natural Resources Department solution would be to open the area to licensed hunters, who are not necessarily good marksmen, much less expert. Mr. Malone asked if there was some lower limit on the size of private property that would be opened to deer management. Mr. DeMuth replied that safety is paramount and did not equate to lot size but rather to the terrain, foliage, obstructions and other conditions at the time. Mr. Zimmerman added he had discussed the process extensively with Mr. Mariano and learned he would not attempt a shot unless it was safe, which is foremost in his mind. Mr. Zimmerman noted examples of large properties that are not safe due to the deer position at the time, so he did not want to draw a line across Shaker. Mr. Moore added that we should not arbitrarily limit the marksman; he was the expert in shooting safely. Mr. Zimmerman committed to have Mr. Mariano at the City Council meeting to answer all these questions. Mr. DeMuth added that one must ultimately trust the marksman, not the location. The request was approved.

  • Mr. Klavora presented a request to authorize a grant application to, and to accept a grant from, the Cuyahoga County Department of Development 2020 Supplemental Grant Program for pedestrian and bicycle improvements at the Chagrin Boulevard-Lynnfield Road intersection. The Planning Department will submit a grant application for $50,000. No local match is required. The heavy volume of traffic through the intersection (approximately 15,000 cars/day) makes crossing the street extremely difficult and dangerous for seniors or parents with children. The next closest traffic light is approximately one-quarter mile away.

Mr. Williams asked if the grant is for a study or the actual construction. Ms. Klavora answered the grant maximum was $50,000 and the money was for construction, but might not be sufficient. Rob Zimmerman had trouble with the phrase “difficult and dangerous” as that was an opinion statement, and asked that the word “dangerous” be removed. Mr. Moore agreed the word “difficult” was sufficient. Ms. Lalley asked if we were spending the grant money after the engineering consultant had deemed a signal as not required. Mr. Malone asked if this intersection would be studied again considering the increase in Chagrin traffic. Ms. Klavora cited the several options in the request that will be rated by public comment before construction begins. The request was approved.

Planner Cameron Roberts presented a request for approval to modify an existing professional services contract to initiate Phase 2 of the City Hall Space Study and Plan project, which aims to co-locate the Building and Housing Inspection Department by reorganizing department locations and functionality within City Hall. The request was approved without further comment.

  • Mr Brichacek presented a request that the Finance Committee recommend to City Council an ordinance to authorize the refinancing of 2003 and 2009 Urban Renewal Bonds. Those bonds were re-funded in 2012 to take advantage of favorable interest rates at that time. Interest rates are currently moving downward, creating the potential opportunity to refinance the 2012 re-funding issue, thereby reducing the City’s annual TIF debt service requirement.

Mr. Moore stressed to the committee the importance of maintaining a high bond rating in order to enable these opportunities for savings. Mayor Weiss asked if this proposed legislation would authorize all types of refinancing. Mr. Brichacek confirmed that it would. Mr. Malone asked if the legislation should require a minimum savings before proceeding with a refinance. Mr. Zimmerman remarked that any savings should be pursued. But Ms. Lalley agreed that some parameters might be advisable. Mayor Weiss suggested that any limit should be set quickly, as the opportunity is time-critical. Mr. Stuczynski of MAS Financial Services suggested 3 percent would make a good minimum savings to warrant action. Mr. Moore felt there was no need to set a minimum restriction, that each opportunity should be judged on its merits. Mr. Cicarella commented that he thought this was a two-step process and each opportunity would come to the committee. Mr. Brichacek replied that City Council would authorize the Finance Committee the discretion to decide refinancing. A 3 percent minimum could be added to the legislation. Mayor Weiss stated that whatever minimum the Council set would be comfortable. Ms. Lalley remarked that residents would object without some limits. Mr. Moore suggested a 3 percent minimum savings requirement, but no maximum. The request was approved.

Mr. Malone adjourned the meeting at 9:18 am.

Frank Goforth, League observer

Library Board of Trustees, Oct. 21, 2019

November 4th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present: Trustees Gleisser, Bertsch, Cicarella, Rashid, Katz; Ms. Garrett arrived at 7:30 p.m. Library Director Amy Switzer and library staff members.

The meeting was called to order at 6:35 p.m.

Minutes from the September meeting were approved, followed by presentation of the financial report. Year-to-date, the Library has received $48,500 more in 2019 from the Ohio state public library fund (PLF) than in 2018. Revenues are above budget and spending is in line with budget figures. The board approved the financial statement.

Ms. Switzer noted a partner agency, Family Connections, is forming a strategic plan that calls for expansion of its services but consolidation of its footprint, and more coordination with the Library. She also presented a renovation update: Schematic design drawings have been made and will be presented at the building committee meeting on Nov. 7, and a presentation to the Board will be made by Bialosky Architects at the November board meeting. Also drawings will be available for public viewing in the Library and for comment.

Ms. Switzer presented the proposal that the Library join a health insurance consortium to offer improved medical and dental coverage benefits to staff at a comparable rate to that now available. There are currently 31 staff members enrolled in the insurance program, but 39 are eligible. Joining the 152 institutional member consortium, which has been in operation for decades, would allow economies of scale. The board approved the initiative.

The board also approved the list of 2020 holidays and staff professional days. Policy updates to the Library’s Special Services policies were presented to conform to the new no-late-fee practices, and were approved. Included in the special services is home delivery of library materials to homebound residents of the Shaker Heights City School District, and also to seniors who do not drive. Arrangements can be made with the Library, using volunteer drivers, to do biweekly or monthly deliveries.

The board also endorsed the Forward Together vision plan, accepted and allocated gifts, and heard a report on personnel matters and community engagement activities regarding English as a Second Language. There was a general discussion of racial equity issues and training for Library staff. Before adjournment at 7:45 p.m., the board recognized the high school civics students who attended the meeting.

Kathleen Hickman, observer

Board of Zoning Appeals/Planning Commission, Sept. 3, 2019

October 15th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Members Present: Mayor David Weiss, chair; Rob Zimmerman, council member; Kevin Dreyfus-Wells and Joanna Ganning, citizen members

Others Present: Joyce Braverman, director of planning; Dan Feinstein, senior planner; William M. Gruber, law director

The agenda for this meeting may be found here:

The meeting was recorded and the audio is available here:

Mayor Weiss called the meeting to order at 7 p.m.

The minutes of the Aug. 7, 2019, meeting, approved unanimously without corrections, are available here:

Board of Zoning Appeals

Barlage Residence, 19700 Shelburne Road:

Public hearing on the request of John Siegel, Siegel’s Construction, representing Nicholas and Traci Barlage, for variances to the garage regulations in order to construct a new detached two-car garage located in the rear yard and facing the street. On a street block where the majority of garages are attached, code requires an attached garage that does not face the street and is in the rear yard. All garages on this street block are attached and do not face the street. The existing rear facing attached garage is proposed to remain, but because of how it is constructed fits only one vehicle.

Staff supported the request, and the Architectural Board of Review approved the garage design. There were no comments or questions during the public hearing. Citing multiple precedents, the board voted unanimously to approve the variance.

Supporting documents are here:

Goldsmith Residence, 2679 Belvoir Boulevard:

Public hearing on the request of Kevin Berger, P.K. Wadsworth, representing Jim and Nancy Goldsmith, for a variance to the location and setback requirements for an air conditioning condenser unit. The applicant proposes to replace an existing air conditioning condenser unit in the 12-foot-wide side yard with a new unit in the same location. The code allows air conditioning condenser units only in side yards measuring a minimum of 25 feet wide and requires that they be screened by a solid wood fence or evergreen vegetation. The applicant proposes to screen the unit from the street and the side neighbors with an existing solid wood fence.

Staff supported the request. There were no comments or questions during the public hearing. Citing multiple precedents, the board voted unanimously to approve the variance.

Supporting documents are here:

Blais Residence, 18210 Fernway Road:

Public hearing on the request of Jeffrey Blais for a variance to the fence location and height regulations on a corner lot. The applicant proposes to install a 4-foot-tall wood picket fence on this corner lot at Lansmere and Fernway roads, 5 feet off the Lansmere Road sidewalk. Code requires that fences located in corner side yards not extend in front of the setback line of the principal building on the adjacent lot and stand no more than 3 feet tall. The adjacent house is set back 50 feet from Lansmere Road. The open picket fence is proposed to enclose the Lansmere side yard and attach to the existing rear-yard wood fence. The fence will be located behind new and existing grass plantings.

Staff supported the request. There were no comments or questions during the public hearing. Citing multiple precedents, the board voted unanimously to approve the variance provided that it was no more than 3-1/2 feet tall and set back 10 feet from Lansmere Road.

Supporting documents are here:

The next meeting is Oct.1, 2019, 7 pm.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:15 pm.

Barbara Bradley

Neighborhood Revitalization and Development Committee, Sept. 4, 2019

October 5th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Request to Appropriate $150,000 for Demolition in Fund 223, Housing Nuisance Abatement Fund (HNAF)

William Hanson, Housing Commissioner, made a request to appropriate $150,000 from the housing reserve to be used for demolition activities. These funds were received by the city as reimbursements from previous demolitions and placed in a nuisance abatement revenue account. While this demolition work was funded through the Cuyahoga County Demo Fund, the county has authorized the city to keep any reimbursed demolition funds provided such funds are used soley for additional demolitions.

There are currently five to seven vacant and abandoned homes under consideration for demolition and this request will ensure funds are available should the determination be made to proceed with demolitions. Of note: the process involved in determining a demolition designation is lengthy.

Vacant and abandoned homes that are blighted negatively impact property values and quality of life in a neighborhood and can become magnets for crime. The city closely monitors vacant properties in an effort to keep them secure and in compliance with the city’s Vacant Property Ordinance. If an owner fails to take action to repair a vacant, abandoned, and blighted house, the city may declare the property a public nuisance and order all structures repaired or demolished. If the owner fails to comply, the city may proceed with demolition. The city may also consider demolition of deteriorated vacant homes acquired through the tax foreclosure process.

There are currently 302 vacant homes in the city, most located in the Moreland and Lomond neighborhoods, and the vast majority are reasonably well maintained. Only a few are showing signs of deterioration. 

The city has received three separate awards for demolition funding through the County Demo Fund since 2012 totaling $2,140,000, and 155 houses and eight commercial buildings have been demolished during this period by the city or the County Land Bank acting on Shaker’s behalf.

The city has applied to the county for an additional $400,000 of demolition funding and anticipates a favorable response to this request although the award has not yet been made.  The county is pivoting away from demolition to rehab for vacant homes, so this is probably going to be the last round of funding for demolition.

The Committee unanimously approved appropriating $150,000 for demolition.

Board of Education, Sept. 10, 2019

October 4th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present: Board President Jeffrey Isaacs; board members Bill Clawson, Lisa Cremer, Ayesha Hardaway (who came slightly late), and Heather Weingart; Superintendent Dr. David Glasner; Treasurer Bryan Christman.

The meeting was called to order by Board President Jeffrey Isaacs at 6 p.m. Find the agenda here.

The board approved the minutes of the meetings held in August. Public comments included one thanking the board for the partnership with Erica Merritt, founder of the organizational development firm Equius Group to support and implement district-wide equity and inclusion efforts; one from Sara Schiavoni, who was disappointed in the scope of a raw data summary that she saw and urged the board to be more data-driven in its strategic plans; and one from high school teacher James Schmidt, who made the point that Shaker summer reading is not only of dead white male authors.

Shaker Schools Superintendent Dr. Glasner recognized the following:  

Shaker Athletics: The Raider football team won the home opener in overtime on Aug. 30 to a full house, and even though they lost their second game, fans are excited about the season and direction of the program under new Head Coach Alex Nichol. Congratulations to senior and U of Michigan commit Lora Clarke, who was named a Max Field Hockey Regional Player to Watch in 2019. Congratulations to junior Kate Hahnenberg on a successful summer of rowing with the U.S. Rowing Olympic Development Program.

Shaker senior Daniel Farkas was selected to participate in the 2019 FBI Future Agents in Training Academy at the FBI Cleveland Field Office, where he and 50 others received hands-on training while meeting FBI employees and learning more about the agency.

A team of educators is participating in an IB conference in St. Petersburg, Fla., this week.

Karen Demauro’s art students at the high school participate each year in the Memory Project Portrait program, creating portraits as special gifts for children facing substantial challenges around the world – this year from Peru.

SHHS and the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum will present a special assembly for junior and senior students on 9/11. This event will be hosted by senior Caleigh Leiken, who was born in NYC on 9/11/2001. The assembly includes honoring first responders, a 30-minute video produced by the museum, and Q and A with Megan Jones, class of 1997, Senior Director of Education at the museum.

Shaker staff and volunteers recently restored the historical Woodbury Rose Garden – so stop by to visit.

Shaker grad Carter Bays, class of 1993, threw out the first pitch at an Indians game in August. He is the co-creator, writer, and executive producer of the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”

Chief Operating Officer Jeff Grosse gave an update on facilities, capital projects, and Fernway construction: Future focus will be on bond projects for school year 2019-20 as summer projects are mostly. At Fernway, work continues on the new addition.

Mayor David Weiss and Law Director Bill Gruber made a presentation about a proposed Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement pertaining to the Wendy’s parcel in the southwest corner of Chagrin Boulevard and Warrensville Center Road.

All personnel updates and changes were approved. Dr. Glasner welcomed back Shelley McDermott as the new assistant treasurer, replacing Karen Andrei, who resigned after 10 years of service and has moved to Columbus. He also congratulated Sean Brown, who was promoted from Head Custodian at SHHS to Assistant Director of Buildings and Grounds. Dr. Glasner commented on the Middle School Summer Leadership Institute, which allowed the MS staff to work on curriculum and intervention work ahead of the school year.

The following business items were approved: an annual vote on a resolution to waive Career-Technical Training for students in grades 7 and 9 for the 2019-20 school year (the district’s courses exceed that required by the state); authorization of the execution and delivery of a master electric energy sales agreement between the district and Power4Schools’ endorsed electric supplier, Engie Resources (for the next 24 months at the lowest rate in the past 15 years); a resolution approving an MOU for Heights Career Consortium with Cuyahoga Community College with newly offered training in the area of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management.

The board held the first of three readings of board policies on items including Educational Equity, Liaison with School Boards Association, Hazing and Bullying, Community Use of School Premises.

The board approved (with one abstention from Ms. Hardaway) the employment of the Riley Law Firm by adding it to the list of law firms/attorneys that may provide legal counsel to the board. This law firm specializes in negotiating the GMP (guaranteed maximum price) in large capital projects such the Fernway reconstruction.

The board approved the Sick Day Transfer Pilot program as outlined in an MOU with SHTA (Shaker Heights Teachers Association), which includes procedures for requesting and donating a sick day and transfer guidelines for qualified recipients. It will be in effect for the 2019-20 school year, after which this program will be evaluated for future application.

The board approved the monthly financial report consisting of Financial Statements and Interim Investments for the month and year-to-date ending July 31, 2019; and approved the transfers between funds that are normal at this time of year. The board also voted to rescind Resolution No. 19-06-91, the Temporary Annual Appropriations for 2019-20 and adopted the 2019-2020 Annual Appropriations.

The Treasurer’s report for July: Real Estate Tax Revenue received in July was $1.1 million, or 6.5 percent less than last year due to a timing difference in advance amounts paid out by the County. The district is expected to receive approximately the same State Foundation funding in Fiscal 2020 as in Fiscal 2019 in accordance with the new state biennial budget—using the same school funding formula that continues the funding “guarantee.” Other local revenue was $17,842, including the receipt in July of a $12,000 Energy Star rebate in connection with the fall 2019 implementation and associated purchase of Chromebooks for Grades 5 – 12 students.

Moody’s issued its Annual Comment on the district dated 06/14/19. While comment reports are generally prepared unilaterally and do not involve interview sessions with the issuer, the district is given a short advance notice to review and correct any factual errors. There were none to correct. From Moody’s comments: The district’s credit position is very good, and its AA1 rating is higher than U.S. school districts’ median of AA3. The notable credit factors include a robust financial position, a strong wealth and income profile, and a healthy tax base. Also reflected are a mid-range debt burden and a significant pension liability.

Superintendent Glasner shared the district’s two priority areas of focus during this school year: 1. Black student excellence—increase the percentage of black students who excel in school and meet or exceed grade-level standards in literacy and math, particularly in grades 2, 4, 6, 8, and 9 (spanning all buildings), where wider disparities are seen. The district plans to measure success in this area through a variety of metrics, including internal and state assessments, percent of students enrolled in advanced courses, and co- and extracurricular club participation. 2. School culture and climate—to support positive learning environments in schools and reduce the number of serious discipline events by at least 10 percent as compared to school year 2018-19. The district plans to measure this goal by student survey data, Instructional Rounds trend data, referral and suspension data, and co- and extracurricular club participation. To help achieve these goals, five broad areas have been identified for change: 1. Instruction, curriculum, and assessment in classrooms; 2. Relationship-building among all stakeholders, including social and emotional curriculum training; 3. Investing in staff and faculty using equity training, diversity in hiring, and retention plans; 4. Collaborative teaching and learning teams; and 5. Intentional continuous improvement processes. The board asked for monthly progress updates on these areas of focus and would like them to be incorporated in the new strategic plan to be drafted this winter.

The next school boarding meeting is set for Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. in the high school small auditorium.

The board adjourned the public session at 8:05 p.m.

Holly Wang

Respectfully submitted by Observer Holly Wang