City approves permit for Channel 19 broadcast station

by Laura Bednar

August 9 city council meeting

Television station WOIO, better known as Channel 19 News may be moving to Independence after the city council approved a conditional use permit for a broadcast station on Rockside Woods Boulevard North.

According to Economic Development Director Jessica Hyser, the site is currently zoned for hotels, motels, and restaurants. The conditional use permit would allow for a 37,000-40,000-square-foot broadcast station to be built between the Embassy Suites Hotel and Topgolf driving range, the former proposed site for Saucy Brew Works, a project that was canceled earlier this year.

“Out of that [Saucy Brew cancelling], grew something greater for our city,” said Vice Mayor David Grendel.

Hyser said WOIO is owned by Gray Media Group and Matt Moran, vice president and general manager of 19 News, WOIO, WUAB, the CW and WTCL said the station currently puts out 70 plus hours of news a week. The station would bring with it 140-150 employees with an annual payroll of $14 million, according to Hyser.

During a planning commission meeting on Aug. 2, Moran said the building would need six to ten satellite dishes and a 75-foot transmitter tower to send the signal to antennas in Parma. He said the dishes could be shielded with landscaping and building design so people can’t see them from the highway.

Moran cited highway access for the news crews as one of the reasons the company chose Independence for the station. Hyser said the company also chose Independence for safety. While the 24-hour news station won’t have its own security personnel, Grendel said both Embassy Suites and Topgolf have extra security. The peak hours for the station would be between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and the preliminary site plan includes 132 parking spaces.

After seeing renderings one of the company’s buildings in Georgia, Mayor Greg Kurtz said, “This raises the bar for what we expect the neighborhood to morph into over time.”

Condemned house

City council approved the demolition of the house at 7905 Stone Rd. after it was declared insecure, unsafe and a public nuisance. Building Official Michael Gero said the house has been vacant for several years and the city issued the first citation for the property’s appearance in 2002.

In addition to the home, there are at least 10 rusted out and inoperable vehicles on the property. The city notified the owner, who lives on Dawning Avenue in Cleveland, of the property’s condemnation on June 6.

Gero said the owner filed an appeal to the board of zoning asking for more time to remediate the violations, but did not attend the board’s meeting. After a site visit, the board did not approve the appeal. Law director Greg O’Brien said the city’s next step is to send a notice to the owner and begin working with a contractor to make the property safe.

“They would tear it down if it were uninhabitable,” said O’Brien. He said if the property were deemed habitable, the city would repair the structure and be reimbursed through the property owner’s taxes.

Fire lieutenant

Joseph Lecznar was sworn in as a lieutenant for the Independence Fire Department. Fire Chief Steve Rega said Lecznar has worked with the department for 10 years and has been an outstanding firefighter. Lecznar earned his associate’s in firefighter science and was recently promoted to assistant director of HAZMAT within the department. ∞