Observer Reports

Finance Committee, June 2017

July 31st, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Finance Committee

June 19, 2017

 

Members present: Council members Nancy Moore (chair), Sean Malone, Earl Williams, and Rob Zimmerman; citizen members Martin Kolb, Linda Lalley, and Brian Rosenfelt

Others present: Mayor Earl Leiken, CAO Jeri Chaikin, Planning Director Joyce Braverman, Principal Planner Ann Klavora, Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Arslanian, and MAS Financial Advisor Matt Stuczynski

 

The meeting was called to order by Ms. Moore at 7:30 a.m. The minutes of the May 15, 2017, meeting were approved with minor corrections.

 

Agenda—Committee actions:

  • Approved an application for a $10,000 grant to build a bike path along Warrensville Center Road in the new Van Aken District. No matching funds from the city are required.
  • Waived normal competitive bidding procedures to approve a design-build contract with Perk Co. Inc. for a 2018 improvement project to replace stamped concrete sidewalks on Lee Road. The selection of the design-build team was done through a competitive process. One other design-build contractor was considered but was rejected due to inferior experience. Several other contractors failed to provide a bid. The cost of the contract will not exceed $514,516 (a $264,318 increase from the budgeted amount). The budget increase is due to continued concrete deterioration and the inclusion of a 20 percent construction contingency fund. According to Ms. Chaikin, the additional funds are available in the General Capital Fund, which is at $1.3 million, $300,000 above normal levels because of additional monies from the Shaker Town Center Capital Fund. According to Mr. Baker, using the Shaker Town Capital Fund for sidewalk improvements along Lee Road makes sense.
  • Approved a contract with HNTB for traffic engineering services in an amount of $123,000. Engineering services will include traffic studies of the timing of lights along Warrensville Center Road and the Lee/Van Aken intersection. Three proposals were considered and HNTB was selected based on past experience with the city and their proposal to improve the Lee/Van Aken intersection (the site of multiple accidents). A total of $125,000 was approved previously in the 2017 capital budget. Small timing changes in the traffic lights are included in the price. New traffic lights and large changes are not included. Mr. Kolb questioned the timing of the study given coming changes to the Van Aken district. Mayor Leiken stressed the importance of controlling traffic patterns to ensure the success of the new Van Aken district.
  • Approved the issuance and sale of $735,000 General Obligation Bonds for street improvements with a term of 20 years and $325,000 General Obligation Bonds for park improvements with a term of 15 years. All of these improvements would be made for the Van Aken District. The committee also voted to approve the issuance and sale of $2.265 million General Obligation Bonds for sewer improvements with a term of 20 years. According to Mr. Baker, total bond debt may vary based on terms and premiums. Mr. Stuczynski is helping the city evaluate bond options. The $2 million loan from the Capital Fund to the Sewer Fund must be repaid this year using bond revenue. According to Mayor Leiken, the Van Aken District developer took on far more monetary risk that what is being proposed that the city take on and that Van Aken debt financing has been incorporated into budget projections. According to Mayor Leiken, the sewer debt should be manageable based on revenue projections. According to Mr. Baker, the legal debt limit for the city is $45 million and the requested debt is $3 million. Several members of the committee expressed concerns including the “real risk” if the Van Aken developer goes bankrupt and the total amount of the city’s debt service. According to Mr. Baker, Shaker Heights incomes went up 4 percent last year and there are no “ominous clouds on the horizon.” Bond rates are still going down and the delay in issuing bonds for the sewer work has not hurt the city.
  • Approved the issuance and sale of $2 million of one-year Street Resurfacing Improvement Notes.
    • According to Mr. Baker, street improvements are typically budgeted on a two-year cycle and the debt service cost is 1.2 percent.
    • The committee agreed that budgets for street improvements should be reviewed annually.
  • Item 6: The committee approved execution of certificates by the Director of Finance and the payment of amounts due upon certain contracts without discussion.
  • Item 7: Mr. Baker presented the 2017 First Quarter Update.
    • Revenues appear to be within projections despite the fact that income tax revenue was down in the first quarter (shortfall already made up in May).
    • City employees got a 2 percent raise this past year and spending went up over $1 million, but all departments cut spending on personal service. Spending increased less than anticipated in the 2017 budget.

Board of Education, June 2017

July 2nd, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Education
June 13, 2017

Present: Board members Alex Dykema, Todd Davidson, Annette Sutherland, Jeffrey Isaacs; Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Treasurer Bryan Christman. Board member William Clawson was absent.

The meeting was called to order by Board President Alex Dykema at 6 p.m. The minutes of the May 9. 2017, meeting were approved.

Dr. Hutchings acknowledged staff and students for special recognition, honors and awards. He mentioned the May 18 Service Tea held to recognize and honor staff and stated that three Shaker Heights High School students were National Merit Scholars in 2017. He said that Shaker had celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the first Shaker Heights High School graduation ceremony. Dr. Hutchings commented on the decorum of the audience at the recent commencement exercises—including some enthusiastic clapping, cheering, shouting and dancing. He indicated that even he had to be reminded to consider that not everyone is aware of what it may have taken for some of the families and their graduates to finally walk across the stage to receive a diploma from Shaker Heights High School.

There was no public comment on the agenda, but Mr. Dykema thanked the 500 individuals who had shared their thoughts and comments regarding a petition concerning the science curriculum. He indicated that a responsive statement had been issued by the Board and that the Board would be working to develop a stronger K-4 science curriculum with updates to be issued as they were developed.

Updates were provided by several students and the superintendent regarding the superintendent’s Student Advisory Council. It is one of several groups of students meeting to consider proposals and projects.

A personalized, online, community-based calendar for students, parents, and the community to include assignment schedules, a timeline of events involving sports, clubs and other activities to help parents and students stay informed, organized and connected is in the planning stages. A follow-up will be done in August to determine interest and demand.

A group is working on an initial concept and pilot program to allow students to switch schedules. Groups of 10-20 students could swap schedules between Honors, AP and general classes. The goal would be to open discussion and communication regarding diversity, class assignments and possibly how the same teacher may act or interact in different classes. Dr. Hutchings said that he may even disguise himself as sort of an undercover boss to be a substitute teacher for a day. Schedule plans may be completed by 2018.

Another group is contemplating research regarding class sizes at the high school and the effectiveness of reducing class size, which currently averages about 25 students per class. Minority and inner-city students seem to gain the most from smaller class sizes. Any such reductions may require more teachers and space. The next steps would involve collecting student performance evaluations and research relevant to geographic, racial and economic factors.

The majority of the items for approval on the published agenda involved action on personnel matters, such as new appointments, changes in assignments, temporary employees, special assignments and resignations, all of which were approved and are listed in detail on the published agenda. Some of the new employees were in attendance and were introduced at the meeting.

Business items reported, recommended by the Superintendent and approved by the Board:

  • Replacement of the ceiling in the Middle School Cafeteria. The cost of the project and qualifications of the bidder were considered before requesting authorization of the contract.
  • Procurement of furniture as a pilot program involving 10 classrooms at Boulevard, Fernway, Lomond, Mercer, Onaway, Woodbury, the Middle School and the High School. Furniture will be installed over the Thanksgiving recess so that an evaluation may be made concerning how the furniture impacts students. Some classroom spaces may or may not accommodate 21st-century furniture, lighting, acoustics and the learning environment. Students, teachers and work groups will test the furniture during the pilot project.
  • The Board approved a second one-year contract with AVI Foodsystems of Warren, Ohio, to provide food service for grades Pre-K through 12 for the 2017-2018 school year.

Treasurer Bryan Christman presented financial and budget reports and the Board approved the adoption of the 2017-2018 Temporary Annual Appropriations (details of each financial report are included as exhibits to the published agenda available online). Mr. Christman reported on some budget negotiations of the Ohio General Assembly, which may and always have impacted local school districts.

Superintendent’s Report on the status of the Shaker Heights Schools’ Strategic Plan:

Dr. Hutchings reported that the scope and vision of the Equity Task Force was expanding from original concerns and issues regarding racial disparity to include matters involving international families, gifted learners, LGBTQ students, special education students, and the under-representation of students of color in higher level courses. Dr. Hutchings said that he really wanted his team to understand the history of Shaker and its diversity from the 1950s to the present. Speaking about the 1950s and ’60s, he invited Joan Campbell (mother of former Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell) to speak about her experiences and the impact of inviting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at Heights Christian Church in Shaker. He invited an educator to speak about the plan that was developed in the 1970s to integrate the schools through parent cooperation to send their black children to white schools and white children to black schools. Dr. Hutchings stated that he wants to develop an understanding of where we were, how far we have come, and where we are going in the future. He stated that it’s time to revisit our goals, vision, mission and core values. Dr. Hutchings said that he is on the Board of the Minority Student Achievement Network founded in 1999.

The Board adjourned to Executive Session at about 7:15 p.m.
Lynn McClelland

City Council, June 2017

July 1st, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

City Council
June 26, 2017

Present: Mayor Earl Leiken; Council members Sean Malone, Nancy Moore, Tres Roeder, Julianna Johnston Senturia, Anne Williams, Earl Williams and Rob Zimmerman
Also present: Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Law Director William M. Ondrey Gruber, Finance Director Robert H. Baker, Director of City Planning Joyce Braverman

The mayor called the meeting to order at 7:40 p.m. and adjourned at 8:55 p.m. The minutes of the May 8, 2017, special meeting and the May 22, 2017, regular meeting were approved. Council met earlier in a closed executive session to discuss personnel matters.

Items on the agenda unanimously approved:

  • An ordinance to fix compensation of City Council members. The compensation level of $10,440/year will continue (unchanged), taking effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
  • An ordinance dedicating additional right-of-way as part of the redevelopment of the Van Aken District along the northeast corner of Farnsleigh and Warrensville Center roads for the construction of a 1.2-mile-long multipurpose sidewalk-path for bicyclists and pedestrians
  • An ordinance accepting a grant of $10,000 from PeopleforBikes to help construct the sidewalk/multipurpose path on Warrensville Center Road
  • An ordinance authorizing a contract using a competitive proposal process instead of a formal competitive bidding process with Perk Co. for $514,516 to design and construct Shaker Town Center crosswalk replacements and infrastructure repairs. Originally this project was budgeted with the expectation that the city would receive a $160,000 grant, but it did not come through.
  • An ordinance authorizing the appropriation of funds from the General Capital Fund by the Planning Department for the repairs and replacements noted above
  • An ordinance authorizing appropriation of funds from the Shaker Town Center Development Area Fund for the same Planning Department work and for the purchase of surveillance cameras by the Police Department
  • An ordinance authorizing the payment of $123,170 to HNTB Corp. to conduct two traffic studies: A Van Aken District Signal Study to get traffic counts and an evaluation of 11 intersections, including the Warrensville corridor, Chagrin corridor and Farnsleigh Road; and a Lee Road/Van Aken Boulevard safety study to get traffic counts and safety recommendations.

Finance Director Robert H. Baker introduced debt issuances that required individual ordinances, which Council unanimously approved.

  • A $735,000 bond issue to cover costs associated with improvements in the Van Aken District
  • $325,000 for constructing a public park within the Van Aken District
  • $2.27 million for sewer improvements
  • $2 million in notes (which have a 1.2% interest rate) in anticipation of the issuance of bonds to pay for road resurfacing improvements called for in the 2017 capital plan. The notes will be issued with a one-year maturity and rolled over each year, retiring 10 percent of the original principal each year so that the entire issue will be retired in 10 years. Since roads are not a long-lived asset, notes were deemed more appropriate than longer term bonds.
  • The execution of Then and Now Certificates by the Director of Finance and the payment of amounts due for various purchase orders

 There were no public comments before or after the agenda was covered.
Audrey Morris

Library Board of Trustees, June 2017

July 1st, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Library Board of Trustees
June 19, 2017

Present: Board President Brian Gleisser; Trustees Michael Bertsch, Thomas Cicarella, Melissa Garrett, Doreen Katz, Troy Meinhard and Carmella Williams

After approval of the minutes of the previous meeting, community comments were invited. A library employee spoke about the irreversibility of a decision to join the county library system, the benefits of local control and independence, and the excellence of the Clevenet system. Several speakers associated with Friends of the Library expressed concern for the fate of the two existing libraries and spoke warmly of the community-centered library system. About half a dozen speakers all voiced support for the Shaker Heights Library remaining a community organization and an asset to Shaker Heights. Some noted the very small amount of the local tax burden that is dedicated to the library.

Following public comments, a presentation was made by Mayor Earl Leiken. He stressed the heavy tax burden on local residents, and said that measures must be (and are being) taken by all public bodies to deal with the situation. He spoke in favor of change to better compete with outer-ring suburbs, and recommended joining the county library system, echoing the suggestions of the Mayor’s Financial Task Force (an ad hoc advisory group). He stressed this in no way was meant as a criticism of the Shaker Heights Library services or management, which he praised. He said that joining the county system would probably mean losing the Bertram Woods branch, but that Main was well positioned to continue. He said he believes the county system would not only mean a decrease in local taxation, but also an increase in services. He emphasized that the excellent relationship of city government and library would continue, whatever course will be taken.

Mr. Gleisser thanked the mayor for his presentation, and described a meeting with and letter received from 62 residents in support of joining the county system. He pointed out that while he was willing to talk with county library officials and explore the issues and possibilities, the Board had requested information recently—but many of its questions remain unanswered. He said (and other Board members agreed) that the Trustees are unwilling to draw up a letter of intent to join the county system (as a preliminary step) because they see this as legally binding and placing further responsibility in the hands of the Shaker Heights Board of Education. The library trustees wish to press the county library managers for more detailed responses to their questions (such as the level of staffing, site of library services, fate of the present buildings and collections, etc.). Several members spoke of the need for the community to be involved in making the decision.

In further business, Mr. Gleisser thanked participants in the Memorial Day parade. The Finance report was accepted, gifts were accepted, and approval was given for two policies, one on collection development and the other on circulation of library materials.

Library Director Amy Switzer reported on activities for the summer, attendance at meetings, Ohio’s state budget, and improvement of the library’s presentation in Shaker Life magazine, as well as plans for a Community Reads event in March 2018.
Kathleen Hickman

Neighborhood Revitalization, May 2017

July 1st, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Neighborhood Revitalization Committee
May 10, 2017

Shaker Design Competition Presentation

The 2016 Shaker Heights Design Competition was titled “A NEW Vision for Infill in the Greater Cleveland area.” Shaker Heights sought architect-builder teams with innovative ideas for high-quality, super energy-efficient, owner-occupied housing for middle income households that could serve as a catalyst to attract new residents to neighborhoods that were hard hit by the housing crisis. The city was looking not just for concepts, but also for architect-builder teams who are ready to build something new and exciting that will set the tone for the future of our neighborhoods.

The winners will enter into development and use agreements with the city to build these homes in the target southern Moreland neighborhood. The city’s partners in this competition are Ingenuity Cleveland, the Kent State University – Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, the County Department of Sustainability, and the Cleveland Design Competition.

The presentations:

RDL (Greg Soltis & Colin Fishbaugh)

RDL Architects has two offices on Chagrin Boulevard, one it has had for 10 years at 16102 Chagrin, which is closer to the border with Cleveland, and the other a newer office called “RDL East” at 16828 Chagrin in Shaker Town Center. The offices’ 42 employees consider themselves daytime Moreland residents. Mr. Soltis showed examples of some of the work RDL has done:

  • 118 Flats Oval in University Circle. It’s a multifamily product that’s geared toward students at Case Western and also people who work at the hospital systems.
  • 118 Flats Square serves the same demographic. These are designed to look like townhouses and function like townhouses, too, but it’s a multifamily apartment building.
  • Townhomes at Van Aken on Van Aken Boulevard; they’re going up right now.
  • Proposed for Willoughby is a townhouse product with front porches and a courtyard.

RDL noted the range of amenities in the target area’s neighborhood: the RTA Rapid station, soccer fields, a library, grocery store shopping and schools as well. The amenities make the neighborhood more walkable and using public transit does way more for the environment than erecting a green building or driving a Prius. An EPA study found that there’s a 39 percent reduction in single-family home-energy use just by being located somewhere you can walk or bike or take public transit.

RDL looked at Chagrin Boulevard and found that it has three main sections:

  • There’s the section on the border with Cleveland where the street with the car lanes are about 50 feet wide, and the right-of-way overall stays consistent and about 90 feet wide. We walk this stretch all the time to Heinen’s to get lunch and other places around every day. We walk between offices so we know what it’s like to walk in this neighborhood and there are some places that are great to walk and some places that could use a little help.
  • The second section is down by the border with the City of Cleveland. Here the sidewalk is not too wide but there is no retail here and the sidewalk is pretty close to the street and because the street starts to get wider as you approach Lee Road the traffic starts to go faster and even though there is a posted 25 mile an hour speed limit there, cars go really fast and sometimes we see the cops waiting for them and catching them.
  • The third section is as you’re walking from our office down towards Heinen’s, but this is looking back towards our office. You could see the sidewalk’s not too wide and pretty close to the cars. As you go up further toward Chagrin and Lee, the right of way expands to 60 feet wide and the lanes actually get really wide too. They’re 12 feet wide which is really more of a freeway width, 11 foot is the biggest you want and RTA likes that for buses, but 10 foot is great in a walkable neighborhood. You could even do a little bit less than that. Once you get there you start to feel kind of squished up against the street and you can feel the cars rush by you. Then when you get to the intersection your pathway is interrupted by the utility pole and the trash cans, so you have to walk around really close to the street or you have to walk through that plaza. Next is a really big intersection to cross over to Heinen’s.

If you try to walk to the Rapid Station, you walk through a big parking lot and then across a lawn because there’s no path. Fixing these could make it more walkable. Shaker Town Center is a whole different story because it’s got a really nice street that buffers the pedestrians; it’s got a nice wide sidewalk, retail facades.

Demographics were what drove the design, in particular today’s large number of millennials and boomers  Millennials (18-34 year olds) are increasingly living with their parents: 30% of them still live at home. That’s a significant change from 1960. Boomers have been the most influential generation of the late 20th century and early 21st century. They still have a lot of influence but they’ll be retiring over the next 15 years and as that happens they become empty nesters. They increasingly want a smaller house, with first floor master living which isn’t always available in older neighborhoods.

 

The other thing we noticed is intergenerational living. One in five Americans lives in a household where there are two or more generations present. Sometimes that is adults with their parents and with their children, sometimes its grandparents that have children or their grandchildren living with them. But this is something that is increasing and increasing among all ethnic and racial groups. Part of that reflects the growth in immigrant households and immigrants tend to live in more intergenerational housing. The recession had an effect on that but it’s still increasing.

 

One of the first things we started to do was walk through the neighborhood in Moreland just to see the kind of characteristics that were in the neighborhood with the different types of housing. There are colonial revival houses, post war bungalows, four square colonials and Tudors.

 

Because the competition had three different types of sites: one that was a single parcel, one that was a double and one that was a triple, one of the first things we started to look at was how we could come up with several different types of arrangements within the site so we could really utilize the space that we had within the sites. We actually tried to develop ground floor master suites on every type of site plan that we had. What’s unique about this is that we actually have two different housing units – one that’s toward the front of the lot and a second housing unit towards the plan north side which is separated by a shared garage in between. What this opens up is this idea of intergenerational living where you could have the younger family living up front with the parents living in the rear house or open up a possibility of having two separate families co-existing on one site.

 

The parcel could be one parcel that one family owns or the parcel could be divided into two parcels. The front house has a master bedroom in the back with the master bath then the living space up front with a gracious front porch that faces the street because one of the things we noticed about the existing housing is that many of them have front porches or in the case of the doubles, an additional porch up top. We wanted to keep that context and the ability for the house to let lives flow out to the street. Between the two houses where the cars are offers the ability to have a court yard where there is shared space between the two units and then the back unit has a master bedroom on the first floor with a bathroom and a Jack and Jill bathroom which you could access from the living space or the bedroom. You could have two bedrooms upstairs in the loft or three bedrooms upstairs if you want in the back unit; in the front unit there are two bedrooms and a loft space. The back unit opens up to a backyard. It’s got a really nice porch back there, two French doors, one from the master bedroom, and one from the living suite that opens up onto the back porch. In the bedrooms that are upstairs there are windows in the rendering but you could potentially have a patio up there as well, with doors that open.

 

For the facades we have quite a few different options for color schemes. For the front house we tried to play off the idea of making this a more contemporary approach to what exists in the neighborhood. The front house reflects what’s on the street but then as you get to the rear house it takes on a more modern approach with a very clean design, simple materials and a nice back porch there. A lot of the extra materiality is spent on the house up front so that it’s kind of a contemporary take on traditional architecture to blend in with the neighborhood. We have the chimney on the front which adds a distinctive architectural feature and a fireplace that opens up to the living area. The living area is vaulted on the sides because the bedroom is right in the middle. We are suggesting different types of materials to give it interest, including wood and metal. We wanted to have fun with color just to show the different layers that you can have in a house, the different facades offer the ability to play with the color and materials so there can be uniqueness, as clients choose their materials. We did study the color palette that’s existing in the neighborhood which tends to be more like from the 1940s with rose colors, maroons, and then there are different browns and there’s green and there’s an anomaly here and there, like bright blue and stuff like that.

 

One of the things that we were concerned about was keeping the homes within a certain price range because we realize that a target market would be around $250,000 for a home. The cost of construction and labor nowadays is pretty high. We wanted to find ways where we could produce something that’s really nice but still be able to target that market. We think the potential Moreland buyers will be entry level buyers or boomers that are downsizing.

 

Ms. Williams introduced Sara Hurand of Iris Design presenting for the Us Plus team.

 

Ms. Hurand said I am the owner of Iris Design and also a Shaker Heights based architecture firm. I’m a sole practitioner but I never work alone; I’m always collaborating with people. On this project I worked with two other Shaker Heights residents, Nikki Pulver, who is the owner of Shaker Interiors and Margie Simon who is a principal at Simon Properties. We joined together because the two of them are lifelong Shaker residents. I’ve lived in Shaker for sixteen years. The first house I bought with my husband we were in our 20s and we’re still there. We care deeply about the City and also the social issues and community issues that are raised by a project like this. We just really wanted to jump in and be part of the dialogue.

 

I’ve been involved with what was LaunchHouse and is now with The Dealership for the past five years. I had a good working knowledge of the efforts that have gone into that development and the neighborhood. I found myself there several times a month, which was great. Nikki and I both live in the Mercer School District; which is the school district that the students from Moreland bus into. We took our lifelong knowledge of Shaker and our personal experiences with us for this journey. We started really getting to know the neighborhood, walking the street, meeting people, brainstorming with some developers in Tremont, looking at different styles of high density developments and just keeping our mind open to what might be right for this neighborhood.

 

We met great people at Neighbor Night and I think you’ll see in our project it was significantly informed by really personal experiences and knowledge that we gained from meeting people living in the neighborhood. We’re calling our proposal “Us+Plus” because we felt that this is a project that needs to have togetherness at its heart. It can’t be an “us and them”. We felt like we were three Shaker people so “us” plus the neighborhood, the neighborhood plus us. We also felt after studying the streetscape, which is made up of really lovely streets with great architectural interest and rooflines and porches that we wanted these new homes to fit into the neighborhood.

 

The house we designed is contemporary but it picks up some core cues from the neighborhood context – the roofline, the porch, the single home is proportioned to scale. We believe, like RDL said, that it’s expensive to build new construction, so with new construction we’re going to be at the higher end of the price point and someone could buy a lovely existing home for a lot less money up the street. We were, therefore, very careful to aim for a price point that was going to be accessible for home buyers for the neighborhood and also fit into the neighborhood really nicely.

 

We also agree with RDL that just building an environmentally efficient home is not enough. It’s actually pretty easily achievable these days because the systems that go into buildings and energy efficiencies have really come a long way. You’re going to put in efficient lighting; you’re going to put in energy efficient systems.  Achieving a net zero or an extreme certified building is going to push us out of the price point and creating a passive house is going to cost a lot more.

 

It’s an open floor plan on the first floor and we conceived this idea of a flexed space. That’s the plus, this is a single family home but you get this flexed space. It has a side entrance that can be used separately so the flex space could be home office, it could be a rental studio, and it can be accessed from a separate door and partitioned off from the main house; or it could be a master suite. We focused on maximizing south facing exposure to create a light airy feel inside. There is a car port in the back. There’s a main entrance off the front porch in the front of the house.

 

It’s also a universal design on the main level with a nominal step to the main house making the main level accessible for handicap or any other mobility issue, which I do believe is just good design.  We’re not just designing this for a certain demographic. It’s something that we encountered in our meetings with people in the neighborhood that are living there. There are multi-generational households, and people with mobility issues who are not getting out of the house as much as they would like to because their homes are not accessible.

 

We were also inspired by the duplexes in the neighborhood. We didn’t see that as a negative; it’s a historical part of Shaker Heights and how we welcomed immigrants. I think this project focuses on homeownership, but there is something to be said about having that flex space to enable a family to come together and being able to live multi-generationally, or to provide a path towards homeownership.

 

The flex space could also be fitted with an ADA accessible bathroom. It could be for an empty nester who’s opening a consultancy and who wants to have an office in their home. It could be a graphic design office. We thought this flexibility really touched several options. Then on the upper level there’s a little loft study. In an open floor plan it’s also good planning to have a place you can go that’s not open. So this is a little area to get away. We have two very generous bedrooms and closets and a really luxurious bathroom with double sinks, a tub, a shower and a toilet. With an $180,000-$200,000 budget, which is a very aggressive budget for a new build, it still has to have the luxury that buyers expect to find in that $150,000 house up the street. We believe that it’s not just a great energy efficient house but really a great neighborhood context – the walkability, the library, the transit, and top schools.

 

We wanted to encourage good social interaction between new people coming into the neighborhood and the existing people living in the neighborhood. There’s excitement from the people that we spoke with about bringing energy in and we want to maximize the positive and minimize the feeling of why are we subsidizing new people coming in the neighborhood when we have items that we want to address. And so for the triple lot we envisioned an area where neighbors could come together and garden. It’s an opportunity for young and old to work alongside each other. Maybe the Making Our Own Spaces (MOOS) youth could build planter boxes. We looked at the grassy section of The Dealership which is currently unused and felt it was a great opportunity to highlight and expand the work of one of the tenants of The Dealership that builds hoop houses, which are basically green houses that operate passively without additional energy to grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers 12 months of the years even in our climate, by having a showroom there to see these hoop houses in operation. We saw this as an opportunity again in Us+Plus – a partnership between the hoop house and the ability to grow and garden as something really fertile to grab onto. Then maybe there could also be a Farmer’s Market, and a partnership with Heinen’s to sell produce. There are so many possibilities for linkages and partnerships, creating a real sense of ownership and community by the neighbors emphasizing the Us+Plus togetherness.

 

Ms. Williams stated the third group to present will be the Moreland Collaborative.

 

Moreland Collaborative (Michael Peters & Irwin Lowenstein)

We are very happy to have participated in the design competition. I’m Michael Peters. Irwin M. Lowenstein is the President of Re Think Advisors and has been a Shaker Heights resident for 25 years and is in his third house in Shaker. Our group came together to do this design competition. We’re also a group that is doing consulting and we have an investment business that we’re launching. One of our partners who lives out of town, Mark Mykleby, was in because we had a client meeting in Cleveland today. Mark is the President of Long Haul Capital Group. Matthew Wolf is an architect with Wolf Maison. In addition to Irwin and Matt we also have Chris Maurer who designed the house on Shaker with the solar panels on it. Matt is a PassiveHaus Institute trained architect. We also have Ken Hejduk who does a lot of work on strategy and system design and branding and marketing. Irwin and I and Ken all work out of The Dealership. Patrick Doherty was part of the Long Haul Team and is also a Shaker resident. We have four Shaker residents on our team.

 

So the competition challenged us to think about the future of housing, innovation, optimism and the Moreland neighborhood, which we thought was really attractive. Not only as Shaker residents but really as people who are really interested in these concepts generally. We were very excited because it was future thinking. We really wanted to bring the sense of innovation to the competition, as everyone else has, and I want to congratulate everyone else because the presentations tonight have been really outstanding.

 

We really wanted to think about the Moreland neighborhood because we believe it has the capacity and potential to really be a neighborhood of choice. Not only for Shaker but really on the East side of Cleveland, and we are excited to use it as our proving ground. We wanted to think about the other things that I know this committee is thinking about – entrepreneurship, walkability, connecting neighbors with neighbors, and the very practical need of attracting businesses and residents to Shaker Heights. I’ve not been to as many Neighbor Nights as I would like, but I’m really just gasping at the spirit of the neighborhood which is also really astounding. All these factors are how we thought about this process.

 

But first and foremost we thought about what we were asked to do, which was houses. The tactic we took was to base this off a European green building standard – the Passive House. The reason we did that is because we felt very strongly that the innovation part of this competition really called for thinking that was not necessarily out of the box, but was really pushing the envelope in terms of energy usage. The vast majority of energy used in a house is for heating and cooling. Passive House really focuses on that. There are three basic levels of energy efficiency: a purely code compliant house; the next step up which is zero energy ready, which is the Department of Energy Program and then there’s the Passive House. How do these compare in terms of the energy use for heating and cooling and costs? The difference in the price of being code compliant and zero net ready is about 1%. Quite frankly, there’s no reason why zero energy ready should not already be the code. Zero net ready would achieve a 21% savings in heating and cooling. The Passive House is about a 10% increase in costs, with a 90% reduction in heating and cooling costs. So when you think about the payback period that 10% is a very reasonable payback period. That is why we focused on passive house as our standard. This standard is well proven and has been the green building standard in Europe since 1994. There are tens of thousands of houses in Europe and increasingly here in the U.S. particularly in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. So how do we apply that to what we wanted to do? We came up with the concepts we did because we were really focused on not only saving energy and making something that was fitting for the neighborhood, but something that was accessible to multiple price points. What we are really looking at in the Moreland district is a mixed use income neighborhood and so you need multiple housing prices and you need density.

 

We have three house designs: the single family; a side by side attached (essentially a duplex) and new style townhouses, a few sets of four unit houses that really start to push the envelope for density, but would still fit within the context of the streetscape. That was how we started but we really wanted to think about those other aspects of what this Committee is looking at and some of the bigger opportunities.

 

Everybody thinks about your own house or apartment or wherever you live. If you’re a renter, owner, just think about it for a second. What’s the first couple of things that come to your mind about where you live? My guess is that the first thing is the physical nature of the house; they don’t think about the energy efficiency. Most people don’t. Houses are really complex systems. They are social systems as well as physical systems. They are repositories of memory. They have a huge impact. They’re an economic system, both in how they work and how much they cost but also how close they are in proximity to where you work. So houses are very complex.

 

We really admired Kamla’s brief that asked us to think about the future of housing. We think it’s not just about the house. When you think about the future of housing you try to solve systemic challenges. You have to solve systemic challenges with systemic solutions. So we think that there is a much better opportunity in Moreland, much, much bigger. Some of the other architects in Shaker came up with the same ideas. But we think that by having a system thinking approach and thinking holistically and not just the housing but the district as a whole you could have a much bigger impact.

 

EcoDistricts is a 501(c) 3 organization that started in the City of Portland. It was a group within their Office of Sustainability which saw that while Portland was becoming the poster child for sustainability, it was also becoming the poster child for inequality, economic inequality in particular. They said could we come up with a way to plan at the district scale and be thinking about sustainability but also be thinking about equity. Through our work that we’re doing with municipalities and foundations and so forth, we found out about EcoDistricts, and we’d like to just put the idea in your minds and the Committee’s minds to think about it for Shaker. I’m going to give you a quick overview of the most important points.

 

There are three primary purpose drivers: equity – meaning prosperity for all not just prosperity for some; resilience – meaning one of the challenges that cities and first ring suburbs face is we’re prone to all kinds of shocks; economic shocks, climate shocks.  How do cities not just bounce back but how they bounce forward;  and sustainability which I think many of us agree that climate changes is happening and that we have to become net zero as soon as possible to be sustainable.

 

There are six strategic priorities and these are interlinked:

  • Place/Livability: having a very inclusive, vibrant community to live in;
  • Prosperity: there is economic development potential and job creation;
  • Health and wellbeing: where you live has an impact on health and happiness;
  • Connectivity: the more dense and the better connected the neighborhood, the more opportunity there is;
  • Living infrastructure: enabling and connecting to flourishing ecosystems;
  • Resource regeneration: lowering our footprint through holistic systems thinking.

 

As a society we typically approach projects by first asking “What are the objectives? What indicators do we want to use to measure? How are we achieving those objectives?” We think that there’s a big step before that. We try to start with purpose drivers, and strategic objectives which give you all kinds of objectives and then indicators. The City should really think big and think about systems as opposed to just the physical nature of the houses.

 

So how does that apply to Shaker or Moreland more specifically? As the other teams have mentioned, we really have an embarrassment of riches in many respects in this neighborhood. We have good public transportation; we have a lot of the infrastructure pieces that are really, really expensive pieces to put in. But how do we really leverage these assets? How do we think about Moreland as having its own brand identify and attractiveness that is different from other neighborhoods? Van Aken will be very different than Shaker Square. So how is the Moreland neighborhood differentiated from those two? We can’t just think about six houses or even seventy houses in Moreland because that’s not what’s going to create systemic change in the neighborhood; that’s not what’s going to make it a neighborhood of choice. How do we not only make this beneficial for the people who are going to live in those houses, but how do we make it beneficial for the community that exists, the community that wants to be there, the community that comes there during the day?

 

We tried to take this holistic approach in our proposal, combining community building, district level energy generation, and storm water management. Let’s include broadband and community wireless; let’s make the transportation multi-modal; let’s think about our parks.

 

Irwin Lowenstein stated that Michael mentioned that there’s an opportunity to do a district energy solution in Moreland. The reality is that the cost of solar is coming down; it’s an amazing business opportunity. But not everybody can take advantage of it unless we do it on a district basis. There are all these flat roofs right behind Chelton facing away. Why not do a district solar project utilizing those roofs? We could also work with businesses in Northeast Ohio to start a solar business in The Dealership that actually builds solar panels and there could be workforce training that happens around that kind of a business idea.

 

So this clearly builds prosperity but it would also reduce CO2 emissions and make cleaner, healthier air – contributing to the health and wellbeing objective. You see how these things are really integrated? Another idea is that if we decide to build Passive Houses in the neighborhood, maybe we could attract a panelization business to The Dealership which would create jobs for the neighborhood.

 

We realize that there are challenges and this is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but the thing that we really like about this EcoDistrict framework is that it takes several concepts which we have already embraced and puts them together in a framework allowing us all to speak the same language. The really important thing is that it’s driven by the community; it’s not us sitting in this room figuring out what’s best for Moreland. It’s bringing that combination of people who live in the neighborhood, want to live in the neighborhood, have some stake in what’s going on, to strategic planning at the neighborhood level. But it’s driven by the community. Now we can all agree upfront on what our goals are, and identify transparent reporting mechanisms. It’s a very cyclical process. It’s not a linear process where you just plan, implement, and hope that it happens the way you planned. We keep getting feedback from those indicators, so we can keep changing and modifying that process to make it a much more vibrant process and it’s not just something that sits on the shelf and never really gets done.

 

Ms. Williams thanked all three groups for their presentations and then opened up the meeting to questions.

 

Jim Neville asked about the sales price ranges? Michael Peters indicated that they had a range of prices depending on the product selected, but that they ranged from $180k to $200k for the townhomes, $300k for single-family homes. Sara Hurand indicated that she had priced her single family houses at $100 per square foot.

Earl Williams asked if they had calculated potential cost savings and how that would factor into attracting buyers? Michael Peters indicated that a passive house had a 75% energy savings. They are all electric houses and cost only approx. $40-50 per month in energy costs. They are also cleaner and quieter. RDL focused more on the savings that came from living in a dense, walkable neighborhood, e.g. the ability to have only a one car household saves a family $8000 per year.

Neil Dick asked if they had figured in the infrastructure costs, such as the costs of splitting or consolidating the lots and creating new sewer and utility hookups? How will you address the offerings of lots and configuration of infrastructure needs such as sewers, etc.? Greg Soltis and Michael Peters indicated that by building more densely the costs would be spread over multiple units and therefore not so significant. Michael Peters also advocated a district approach to storm water management which would lower long term costs. Sara Hurand’s units would not require any such changes.

Myra White expressed concerns about the parking spaces, i.e., carports and one car garages for what is a largely a car-oriented market of buyers.  Mark Mykleby indicated that changes in demographics are driving different consumer preferences such as reduced dependence on cars and a greater focus on people and connectedness. Predictions are that only 1 in 5 households will only own one car. Houses are now being designed to accommodate lifestyles, not cars. Earl Williams noted the continued hostility at the State level to transit. Michael Peters indicated that change comes at the district level, not the State or Federal level.  Greg Soltis added that he had lived without a car for two years and frequently takes the Rapid to work in Shaker from Ohio City. He uses Lyft and Uber. He expects that as our politicians age out of office we will see them being replaced by younger politicians with different perspectives. He also added that on-street parking was definitely feasible in the Moreland neighborhood given the width of the streets. Mark Mykleby indicated that Minneapolis had reduced the required amount of parking by 60% in its zoning and it has resulted in $5 billion of economic development. Irwin Lowenstein added that the Moreland Cooperative designs could still incorporate garages if required, though the point of the competition was to push innovation.

Joyce Braverman asked if they had considered rental vs owner occupancy for the multifamily units? Sara Hurand indicated that the neighborhood residents’ strong preference for owner occupancy drove her decision to design single family houses. However, they include a flex unit/space with a separate entrance that could be used as a live/work space or an Airbnb rental, for example. Greg Soltis said that their units could either be individually owned or owned by one household who then rents out one unit.

Anne Williams asked what kinds of zoning ordinance impacts they expected? Greg Soltis indicated that the area was already zoned for two family so no changes are needed except for changes to allow splitting the lots to allow smaller lots and easements for the shared driveways. Irwin Lowenstein and Michael Peters stressed the importance of the City looking at the district as a whole, not just focusing on building individual houses. The commercial and residential areas should be looked at as a cohesive whole. Earl Williams expressed his support for seeing houses being built in the neighborhood to re-use the vacant lots, and would like to see the new houses complement the existing houses. Irwin Lowenstein said he would like to see existing houses retrofitted to passive house standards. It is possible, though expensive. He would love to see a company focused on energy efficiency products locating in the neighborhood and providing the materials and jobs for creating energy efficient houses in the neighborhood.

Marge Misak asked about accessibility in the other designs? Universal design was a requirement of the competition per Kamla Lewis. All of the units embrace universal design features, including first floor bedrooms and accessible entrances at side or back.

Neil Dick said that his understanding was that national surveys reveal that millennials are not buying. How can you attract them to make these purchases? Myra White indicated that actually millennials were buying, though later than boomers had. Mark Mykleby said that affordability attracts millennials, and that having units that included the option of renting out a space for additional income was attractive. Michael Peters indicated that tax abatement was helpful in attracting the first wave of buyers. He would like to see mixed use/mixed income product on Lee Road that attracts singles who would then move into single family housing on Chelton once they had families.

Ron Lloyd asked why Michael would propose more residential on Lee Road when the City so desperately needed additional commercial tax revenue? Michael Peters responded that he was proposing mixed use buildings on the deep lots on the west side of Lee Road. Neil Dick mentioned the difficulty of acquiring those commercial lots for redevelopment. Irwin Lowenstein agreed that was an issue in all communities trying to redevelop but with the right vision and package of incentives that make it worthwhile for owners to add density; it is possible and has been accomplished by several cities. Michael Peters said that it is good to have the neighborhood grow organically and let smaller developers participate. He would like to see the City set the stage to allow as many as possible to participate.

Sara Hurand asked how long it would take to design at the District level using the EcoDistrict model? Michael Peters responded that it is an ongoing process of continuous refinement and change so it actually goes on forever. However, it takes about one year to set up the initial community input and framework, two years to test and then continues from there. Irwin Lowenstein reminded the group that the Van Aken district had taken twenty years of planning and was only now coming to fruition.

Anne Williams asked if there were any examples of EcoDistricts in Ohio or in smaller communities like Shaker Heights?  Michael Peters said that EcoDistricts exist in all sizes of communities. Even big cities which have them develop them at the neighborhood level. There is an EcoDistrict in Millville, New Jersey which has only 40,000 people. Irwin Lowenstein indicated that the average size for an EcoDistrict was 120 acres. He believes that if there was ever a community which would readily understand and embrace the EcoDistrict approach to community planning, it would be Shaker Heights.

Anne Williams asked the presenters if what they learned from talking to Moreland residents was important as they designed their proposals? Greg Soltis indicated that they wanted more homeownership and houses that fit in the context and blended well with the existing housing, even though they welcomed new modern housing of different types. Sara Hurand was impressed with the neighborhood residents’ enthusiasm for the project and change in the neighborhood. She heard lots of positivity and satisfaction with city services. Michael Peters said that residents were very pleased with the community engagement initiated by the city and that they were a part of the process from the outset.

Kamla Lewis asked Myra White’s opinion on the housing designs as a realtor. She thought all the designs were great ideas. Myra said that she liked the RDL designs with the houses at the front and back. She felt that they filled an existing need and fit in well with the neighborhood. She said that once provided with a product they want, millennial are buying, but they are not interested in existing houses that need lots of work. She liked the idea of housing that allowed Shaker residents to age in place.

Myra White asked if RDL had been involved in the project in Lakewood. Greg Soltis said that yes they were and that all the first floor master units sold out immediately.

Vicki Elder wanted to know if cities which have used the EcoDistrict model are older cities like ours with aging infrastructure and if the projects are city driven? She really liked the idea of district wide thinking. We need to have a long term plan that addresses future residents as well as current residents. Irwin Lowenstein said that EcoDistricts are pretty new. The planning protocol was only issued in 2016, and 10 communities have committed to starting the process, while 24 communities are kicking the tires. The process is being driven by CDCs and cities. The basic premise is that regardless of who champions the process at the outset, it should lead to the community being self-sufficient. The process should create a neighborhood “backbone” that becomes the force behind the project. Michael Peters added that cities are paying for the process in different ways, and what they are finding is that by doing district wide planning they are able to access funding they otherwise would not, such as in Portland where they saved $4 million for their sewer work by getting a grant for storm water management. Another example is that if a neighborhood took a district approach to solar, the savings to each homeowner would be around 40%. Districtwide planning also helps attract developers.

Vicki Elder asked how would you phase it? Do you have to wait till the planning is all done before you can start anything? Michael Peters stressed that planning is a continuous process, so no, there is no need to wait to do anything before starting the EcoDistrict process. You can always plan ahead such as putting in hookups in preparation for districtwide utilities.

Neil Dick said that when bringing stakeholders together, it is important that developers be included. Michael Peters said while they should be included in the process, they should not be driving the planning process, the community should be. Greg Soltis indicated how liberating it was to have the architects rather than the developers driving the design process for the competition.

Myra White asked who is paying for the new gas lines in Cleveland Heights at Cedar Hill. Joyce Braverman said that if the City requests them the City pays, but if the gas company decides they are needed, the gas company pays.

Vicki Elder says that she hoped the city was hearing the message that they should be thinking comprehensively about the future. Sara Hurand said that she thinks the city has set a great foundation through its neighborhood engagement and Housing Plan for future planning through a mechanism like the EcoDistrict framework and process.

Eileen Anderson

City Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals, May 2017

June 6th, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Zoning Appeals and City Planning Commission
May 2, 2017

Present: Councilman Rob Zimmerman, citizen members Jack Boyle and David Weiss
Also present: Joyce Braverman, Dan Feinstein, Planning Department; William Gruber, Law Director.

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Zimmerman at 7 p.m.

The minutes of the April 4 meeting were approved unanimously. Mr. Dreyfuss-Wells has recused himself from any hearings concerning the Avalon Station Phase 2 project.

BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS/CITY PLANNING COMMISSION

A public hearing was held on the request of William Sanderson, Triban Investments, 16900 Van Aken Blvd., Avalon Station 2, for site plan review, resubdivision of land, and variances. The applicant proposes to develop Phase 2 of Avalon Station into 66 single-family, three-story townhomes at the southeast corner of Van Aken Boulevard and Winslow Court. The development will have five interior private alleys with two entrances onto Winslow Road. Two parcels would be subdivided into 67 individual lots, one for each unit and one as common area. A Conditional Use Permit is required in order to have residential development on the first floor in the CM Commercial Mixed-Use zoning district. Variances are requested for large parcel development requirements, including: a mix of uses, the first floor facing primary streets requirement to be retail or service, and the percentage of street-facing facades required to be open windows. Variances are also requested for the minimum lot and width standards, side-yard setback maximums, the minimum rear-yard setback, the number of replacement trees, and the location of the maintenance building in the Winslow Road front yard, and fence location. Variances are required to the Commercial Mixed-Use Design Standards and Principles, to the requirement that mechanical equipment be located on the roof in order to install ground-mounted air-conditioning units, and to air-conditioning condensing-unit screening requirements. The Conditional Use Permit requires Council Confirmation.

There was extensive discussion about the density of the site plan. The developers are consulting with the Fire Department about the turning radius for its trucks. Other items discussed included the number of replacement trees, the height of the front yard fences, and providing additional green space.

At the public hearing, a resident of Avalon Station 1 raised the question of salability, as there are still vacancies at that location. She noted that the current site is serving as a green space for area residents.

Mr. Zimmerman noted that there was a lot of material to be covered He suggested that the Conditional Use Permit be approved, and that the variances and site plan be covered at a future meeting. It was so moved by Mr. Boyle, second by Mr. Weiss, and unanimously approved. The Conditional Use Permit will go to City Council for its May 22 meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 9 p.m.
Gail Gibson

City Planning Commission/Board of Zoning Appeals, April 2017

June 6th, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Zoning Appeals and City Planning Commission
April 4, 2017

Present: Mayor Earl Leiken, Councilman Rob Zimmerman, citizen members Jack Boyle, Kevin Dreyfuss-Wells, and David Weiss
Also present: Joyce Braverman, Dan Feinstein, Planning Department; William Gruber, Law Director.

The meeting was called to order by Mayor Leiken at 7 p.m.

BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS

POSITIVE EDUCATION PROGRAM

This was a continuation of a public hearing on the request of Rhonda DiOrio and Kyle Rose, Positive Education Program (PEP), 14201 Southington Road, to install a fence around a proposed garden along Keswick Road. The case was continued at the March meeting in order for the applicant to discuss the proposal with the neighbors. The applicant met with the neighbors and now proposes to install a 6-foot-tall wood-framed wire fence surrounding the garden in one of two locations: the originally proposed location adjacent to the playground and parking lot set back 52 feet from Keswick Road, or an alternate location in the Keswick yard adjacent to the school building 30 feet off Keswick Road. Code requires the fence only be 4 feet tall in the Keswick Road front yard. The fence is proposed to enclose a new therapeutic garden area, which will be utilized by the school’s students.  The fence is proposed to be screened along Keswick Road with a mix of bayberry bushes, little bluestem grasses, and St. John’s Wort.

A Keswick resident commented that she appreciated the meetings with the applicant.

As moved by Mr. Boyle, second by Mr. Dreyfuss-Wells, a variation allowing a 6-foot fence and a setback variance of 25 feet was unanimously approved. Staff will approve the landscaping.

HEISER RESIDENCE – 2685 ROCHESTER ROAD

A public hearing was held on the request of Kenneth Fisher, on behalf of Lisa Heiser, 2685 Rochester Road, for a variance to the location and setback requirements for outdoor mechanical units. The applicant proposed to install new pool equipment in the side yard, located 10 feet from the side property line. The existing side yard is 16 feet wide. The pool equipment is no more than 4 feet tall. The code requires that pool equipment be located in the rear yard only and screened from view. The applicant proposes to screen the units with taxus evergreen bushes and a 4-foot-tall fence along the property line.

There was no comment at the public hearing.

As moved by Mr. Weiss, second by Mr. Boyle, the variance was granted unanimously.

CITY PLANNING COMMISSION

PROCESS CANINE – 3178 LEE ROAD

Mr. Boyle recused himself from this portion of the meeting.

This was a continuation of a public hearing on the request of Amanda Graeter, Process Canine, for variances and a Conditional Use Permit in order to operate a dog daycare business. This case was continued from the March meeting in order for the applicant and staff to respond to questions from the board and neighbors. The applicant met with the neighbors and revised the plans to add fencing and parking-lot landscaping, and to relocate the dumpster. The proposed business will utilize indoor and outdoor space at the former Lee Road Nursery property for a dog daycare, training and boarding facility. A Conditional Use Permit is required for a use similar to an animal hospital/veterinarian office. A variance is required to locate this business closer than 100 lineal feet to a residential use. A variance is required to enclose the dumpster with a wood fence instead of the required brick wall and to locate it in the side yard instead of the rear yard. The dumpster has been moved closer to the building. A fence landscaping variance is required for an 8-foot-tall cedar fence facing Lee Road without required landscaping to soften a fence facing the street. Code requires a 20-foot landscape buffer and a 6-foot-tall brick wall adjacent to the residential district along the rear property line. A variance is required to provide an 8-foot-tall solid cedar fence, set back 5 feet from the rear property line, with the existing trees, grass and asphalt area adjacent to the rear property line. Landscaping is required at the south side property line and along the front edge of the parking lot. A 5-foot-wide landscape strip with 2- and 3-foot-tall landscaping has been added to soften the parking lot from the street. Only a wood fence is proposed along the south property line. A parking variance is required, as 19 parking spaces are required and 14 are proposed. Council confirmation is required.

Nick Fedor, executive Director of the Shaker Heights Development Corp., which owns the property, said that this would be an important business for the Lee Road area. Ms. Graeter has met with the neighbors and businesses and has revised the site plan as recommended at the March meeting. Five businesses have signed a statement in favor of the applicant. The fencing plan and the landscaping plan have been modified. There would not be a need for the 19 required parking spaces, since the patrons would drop off their dogs and would not require long-term parking.

At the public hearing, two of Ms. Graeter’s current customers stated that her current business is always extremely clean, and the dogs are trained and very well-behaved.

Several neighbors on Sudbury whose properties abut the rear of this property commented that they were extremely concerned about noise and odors. Others in the Moreland area supported the idea of a new sustainable business in the area. Ms. Graeter said that the building masonry is very thick, and that noise would be contained. Also, special dumpsters are designed to keep rodents out.

Mayor Leiken said that he believed the business will be well-managed, and that there will be adequate parking. He moved approval of the variances. It was seconded by Mr. Dreyfuss-Wells, and approved unanimously. The Conditional Use Permit must still be approved by City Council. The business will have 18 months to complete the site; staff will approve landscaping.

CITY OF SHAKER HEIGHTS – 19005-20101 FARNSLEIGH ROAD

A public hearing was held on the request of the City of Shaker Heights for a resubdivision of land in order to dedicate right-of-way. The city proposes to resubdivide city-owned property and dedicate right-of-way at the Farnsleigh Road parking lot.  The city proposes to dedicate up to 7.2 feet of additional right-of-way to the north side of Farnsleigh Road to accommodate the future Van Aken District Path. The city-owned parcel will be reconfigured to accommodate the proposed trail. A resubdivision of land requires City Planning Commission review. Council action is required to dedicate the right-of-way.

As moved by Mr. Weiss, second by Mr. Boyle, the request was unanimously granted.

The minutes of the meeting of March 7 were approved on the motion of Mr. Weiss, second by Mr. Dreyfuss-Wells.

The meeting was adjourned at 9 p.m.
Gail Gibson

Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, April 2017

June 5th, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Neighborhood Revitalization Committee
April 12, 2017

Authorization to Appropriate Funds for Cleveland Foundation Internship Program (Kamla Lewis)

Document link: Authorization to Appropriate Funds for Cleveland Foundation Internship Program

 The city has been selected as one of 19 agencies to participate in the 2017 Cleveland Foundation summer internship program. This is the 18th year of the program and the first time the city would be participating. The Foundation covers all costs associated with the intern up to $6,475. The city hires the intern as a temporary part-time employee for 11 weeks from June to August 2017, and the intern is paid $12 per hour for up to 40 hours per week. The intern in this case would work in the Department of Neighborhood Revitalization on the Moreland Rising project. The city will pay the intern and then be reimbursed for costs by the Cleveland Foundation.

This internship, city officials believe, provides a unique opportunity for a young student to learn about this project, which is helping to transform the Moreland neighborhood into a vibrant community.

Moreland Rising

Vibrant Shaker neighborhoods create a more vibrant Shaker.

Enter Moreland Rising: the city- and neighborhood-led collaboration with arts, business, and development partners to create a Moreland hub of innovation.

The project could:

  • Catalyze entrepreneurship along the Chagrin-Lee corridor
  • Explore new ways for neighbors to connect with neighbors
  • Cultivate an environment that continues to inspire art and artists
  • Encourage innovative housing designs that set the standard for years to come

The recommendation (the acceptance and appropriation of $6,475 from the General Fund to pay for the intern and to be reimbursed by the CF) passed unanimously.

Request to Enter into a Contract with Kay Coaching for Neighborhood Engagement Work (Colin Compton)

Documents: Request to Enter into a Contract with Kay Coaching for Neighborhood Engagement Work

The Economic Development Department requests the Neighborhood Revitalization Committee’s recommendation to enter into a contract with Kay Coaching in the amount of $55,000 to continue neighborhood engagement work in Moreland for the period of April 1, 2017, through March 31, 2018. This allocation will allow Economic Development to continue the neighborhood engagement efforts that are already in place while also developing and implementing new participation avenues for residents. In planning to move forward, Economic Development evaluated two levels of involvement at which Kay Coaching could be used. The first option used Kay Coaching primarily outside of the monthly Neighbor Night event to spearhead outreach to residents and hold other spaces for community gatherings. The second option, in addition to the activities outside of Neighbor Night, added Kay Coaching’s assistance with Neighbor Night itself. This includes leading planning meetings for Neighbor Night, attending Neighbor Night, leading debrief sessions after Neighbor Night, and providing support to resident-initiated projects that may rise out of Neighbor Night. Due to the increased interest from residents both in Moreland and in adjoining neighborhoods and the continued increase in attendance at Neighbor Night, Economic Development proposes to proceed with the second, more involved level of involvement with Kay Coaching in order to ensure that the neighborhood engagement work’s transition to Economic Development is a success.

Kay Coaching, a community development consulting company, wants to reach out to younger adults and youth. In order to do this the consultants plan to use a “boots on the ground” approach that includes talking to Moreland residents at their homes, school bus stops, and school events. While Neighbor Night will remain an integral part of the community network building strategy, Kay Coaching will also organize smaller, less formal gatherings that make it possible for residents and other network members to meet and share interests and information. These could be drop-in sessions at the community center, The Dealership, the library, a coffee shop or a park or playground.

Many of the committee members were concerned that it is difficult to quantify (measure) success of the outreach, thus it is difficult to justify paying for Kay Consulting services. It was explained that this is a process that requires a tremendous amount of hours to implement and at this time Kay Consulting services are needed, as the city doesn’t have the personnel to accomplish this task on its own. The ultimate goal is to teach community “stewards” to do the job that the consultants are now doing. Also, it might be possible that someday volunteers can accomplish the job that Kay Consulting is doing. But for now, it was strongly emphasized that Kay is needed to continue this program, which is vital for the Moreland Rising goal of creating a vital and thriving community.

Request to Establish an Agency Fund for Escrow Accounts and Amend the Housing Code to Charge a Fee for Escrow Disbursements (William Hanson)

Documents: Request to Establish an Agency Fund for Escrow Accounts and Amend the Housing Code to Charge a Fee for Escrow Disbursements

FirstMerit Bank has served as the city’s Designated Escrow Agent since 2010. From 2010 to 2016, a total of 901 escrow accounts were established and $13,447,251 was reinvested in maintaining and improving residential property in the community. The city has been pleased with the agreement with FirstMerit, which did not charge the city for its services, and the only charge to the account holder was a $15 fee for disbursements from escrow. The city would have preferred the arrangement with FirstMerit to continue, but FirstMerit was recently acquired by Huntington Bank, which has informed the city that it wants to discontinue its involvement with Point of Sale escrow accounts. Huntington officials agreed, however, to continue opening new accounts until June 1, 2017, and to disburse funds in existing accounts through the end of the year to allow the city some time to transition to a new escrow process.

The city unsuccessfully reached out to other banks to see if they were interested in handling the escrow accounts.

In order to continue the Point of Sale program, the city will act as the designated agent for escrow accounts and perform the functions previously handled by FirstMerit/Huntington. The bulk of these activities will be handled in-house by the Finance Department, which will be opening escrow accounts and handling disbursements.

The NRC agreed with the recommendation for the authorization of an agency fund for escrow accounts and an amendment to the fee schedule in the Housing Code to charge $15 for each disbursement from an escrow account.

At this time the Finance Department feels that the current staff will be able to manage this additional task but will reevaluate once the change has been made. Also, the $15 charge is the same charge that FirstMerit assessed on disbursement from escrow.
Eileen Anderson

City Council Work Session, May 2017

June 5th, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

City Council Work Session & Special Meeting
May 8, 2017

Present: Mayor and all Council Members

The bulk of the meeting was devoted to a presentation by Frank Greenland, Director of Watershed Programs for NEORSD. Also in attendance were Kyle Dreyfuss Wells, CEO of NEORSD, and Jeff Jowett, Watershed Team Leader.

The history of sewers in Northeast Ohio was touched on, and then responsibilities and programs of NEORSD. It came into existence in1972 and includes 52 communities, with 330 miles of sewers under its purview (there are over 3,000 miles of sewers under local control). The district includes three water treatment facilities, and has made $5 billion in investments since 1972. The district deals with 90 million gallons/year of wastewater, with a goal of reducing untreated flow (subject to a consent decree).

The presentation touched on watershed management, erosion issues, water quality, and flooding. It was pointed out that residents are eligible for credits if they install rain barrels or rain gardens, since they help manage storm water runoff.

Discussion of Green Lake dredging also took place.

In the special meeting, an ordinance to fix compensation of City Council members was introduced, on first reading. If passed, the compensation level of $10,400/year will continue (unchanged), taking effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
Kathleen Hickman

Board of Zoning Appeals & City Planning Commission, March 2017

May 2nd, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Zoning Appeals and City Planning Commission
April 4, 2017

Present: Jack Boyle, Kevin Dreyfuss-Wells, David Weiss, Rob Zimmerman, Mayor Leiken
Also present: Joyce Braverman, Dan Feinstein, Planning Department; William Gruber, Law Director

The meeting was called to order by Mayor Leiken at 7 p.m.

BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS

POSITIVE EDUCATION PROGRAM

This was a continuation of a public hearing on the request of Rhonda DiOrio and Kyle Rose, Positive Education Program (PEP), 14201 Southington Road, to install a fence around a proposed garden along Keswick Road. The case was continued at the March meeting in order for the applicant to discuss the proposal with the neighbors. The applicant met with the neighbors and now proposes to install a 6-foot-tall wood-framed wire fence surrounding the garden in one of two locations: the originally proposed location adjacent to the playground and parking lot setback 52 feet from Keswick Road, or an alternate location in the Keswick yard adjacent to the school building 30 feet off Keswick Road. Code requires the fence only be 4 feet tall in the Keswick Road front yard. The fence is proposed to enclose a new therapeutic garden area, which will be utilized by the school’s students. The fence is proposed to be screened along Keswick Road with a mix of bayberry bushes, little bluestem grasses, and St. John’s Wort.

A Keswick resident commented at the public hearing that she appreciated the meetings with the applicant.

As moved by Mr. Boyle, second by Mr. Dreyfuss-Wells, a variation allowing a 6-foot fence and a setback variance of 25 feet was unanimously approved. Staff will approve the landscaping.

HEISER RESIDENCE – 2685 ROCHESTER ROAD

A public hearing was held on the request of Kenneth Fisher, on behalf of Lisa Heiser, 2685 Rochester Road, for a variance to the location and setback requirements for outdoor mechanical units. The applicant proposed to install new pool equipment in the side yard, located 10 feet from the side property line. The existing side yard is 16 feet wide. The pool equipment is no more than 4 feet tall. The code requires that pool equipment be located in the rear yard only and screened from view. The applicant proposes to screen the units with taxus evergreen bushes and a 4-foot-tall fence along the property line.

There was no comment at the public hearing.

As moved by Mr. Weiss, second by Mr. Boyle, the variance was granted unanimously.

CITY PLANNING COMMISSION

PROCESS CANINE – 3178 LEE ROAD

Mr. Boyle recused himself from this portion of the meeting.

This was a continuation of a public hearing on the request of Amanda Graeter, Process Canine, for variances and a Conditional Use Permit in order to operate a dog daycare business. This case was continued from the March meeting in order for the applicant and staff to respond to questions from the Board and neighbors. The applicant met with the neighbors and revised the plans to add fencing and parking lot landscaping, and to relocate the dumpster. The proposed business will utilize indoor and outdoor space at the former Lee Road Nursery property for a dog daycare, training and boarding facility. A Conditional Use Permit is required for a use similar to an animal hospital/veterinarian office. A variance is required to locate this business closer than 100 lineal feet to a residential use. A variance is required to enclose the dumpster with a wood fence instead of the required brick wall and to locate it in the side yard instead of the rear yard. The dumpster has been moved closer to the building. A fence landscaping variance is required for an 8-foot-tall cedar fence facing Lee Road without required landscaping to soften a fence facing the street. Code requires a 20-foot landscape buffer and a 6-foot-tall brick wall adjacent to the residential district along the rear property line. A variance is required to provide an 8-foot-tall solid cedar fence, set back 5 feet from the rear property line, with the existing trees, grass and asphalt area adjacent to the rear property line. Landscaping is required at the south side property line and along the front edge of the parking lot. A 5-foot-wide landscape strip with 2- and 3-foot-tall landscaping has been added to soften the parking lot from the street. Only a wood fence is proposed along the south property line. A parking variance is required as 19 parking spaces are required and 14 are proposed. Council confirmation is required.

Nick Fedor, Executive Director of the Shaker Heights Development Corporation, which owns the property, said that this would be an important business for the Lee Road area. Ms. Graeter has met with the neighbors and businesses and has revised the site plan as recommended at the March meeting. Five businesses have signed a statement in favor of the applicant. The fencing plan and the landscaping plan have been modified. There would not be a need for the 19 required parking spaces, since the patrons would drop off their dogs and would not require long-term parking.

At the public hearing, two of Ms. Graeter’s current customers stated that her current business is always extremely clean, and the dogs are trained and very well behaved.

Several neighbors on Sudbury whose properties abut the rear of this property commented that they were extremely concerned about noise and odors. Others in the Moreland area supported the idea of a new sustainable business in the area. Ms. Graeter said that the building masonry is very thick, and that noise would be contained. Also, special dumpsters are designed to keep rodents out.

Mayor Leiken said that he believed the business will be well managed, and that there will be adequate parking. He moved approval of the variances. It was seconded by Mr. Dreyfuss-Wells, and approved unanimously. The Conditional Use Permit must still be approved by City Council. The business will have 18 months to complete the site plan; staff will approve landscaping.

CITY OF SHAKER HEIGHTS – 19005-20101 FARNSLEIGH ROAD

A public hearing was held on the request of the City of Shaker Heights for a resubdivision of land in order to dedicate right-of-way. The city proposes to resubdivide city-owned property and dedicate right-of-way at the Farnsleigh Road parking lot. The city proposes to dedicate up to 7.2 feet of additional right-of-way to the north side of Farnsleigh Road to accommodate the future Van Aken District Path. The city-owned parcel 736-10-001 will be reconfigured to accommodate the proposed trail. A resubdivision of land requires City Planning Commission review. Council action is required to dedicate the right-of-way.

As moved by Mr. Weiss, second by Mr. Boyle, the request was unanimously granted.

The minutes of the meeting of March 7 were approved on the motion of Mr. Weiss, second by Mr. Dreyfuss-Wells.

The meeting was adjourned at 9 p.m.
Gail Gibson