Council approves widening parking spaces to 10 feet

by Laura Bednar

Oct. 11 city council meeting

Independence City Council members approved amending parking space sizes for commercial lots from 9-by-20 feet to 10-by-20 feet with a 4-3 vote.

Preceding council’s decision was a public hearing on the size change. During the hearing, Economic Development Director Jessica Hyser said engineering, planning and consulting firm GPD looked at 10 different Northeast Ohio communities and found that Brecksville, Cuyahoga Heights, Macedonia, Valley View and Green all had 10-foot-wide parking spaces. She added that the top selling vehicle models today are trucks and SUVs, which are larger in size today compared to the 1990s.

Resident Alex Harnocz said he trained as a city planner and a larger lot size to accommodate the spaces would result in more potential flooding. He also said a surface parking space costs between $1,000 and $3,000.

“Every time you make that bigger, you make sites in our city marginally less competitive against other places,” said Harnocz. “I think that requiring that [larger spaces] across the board for all new development puts us at a disadvantage; and it will probably put a lot of variances in front of planning commission.”

Resident Christine Novak said as a senior, she is in favor of larger spaces, adding that it would be beneficial for seniors who have walkers or canes.

Councilperson Dale Veverka said parking lots usually have adequate handicapped parking. He also said that electric vehicles are becoming popular and are not as “gargantuan” as the cars available now.

“If we are going from a 9-foot spot to a 10-foot space, that means everybody is going to lose 10% of their parking,” said Veverka. “The other thing that goes along with all of those pieces is the fact that if we have people coming forward, they are going to need to go to the planning commission and get more variances. … You are creating more work for [them].”

Building Official Michael Gero said all projects in the city have to go through the planning commission and parking is discussed at that time. “The new parking requirements are going to be for projects that are coming in,” Gero said. “This is not something that would be retroactive.”

Councilperson Anthony Togliatti said he had not heard of any issues from the community with the 9-foot-spaces. Hyser countered by saying parents complained to her about the space size when taking a baby carrier or other equipment in and out of the vehicle.

Councilperson Tom Narduzzi said, “I think all Jess is saying is that in today’s world, 9 foot isn’t good enough. So, we are just trying to make it more accessible for everybody to be able to park and exit their cars and get back in their cars.”

Hyser added that the city “needs to update the code to be in line with today’s standards,” giving the example of banks needing fewer parking spaces overall because there is not as much in-person business today.

Gero explained that changing the size of the spaces was the first step in updating the parking code. The next step would evaluate the required number of spaces, which is currently five per 1,000 square feet.

Veverka said the number of spaces required should be reduced first before the size of the space is changed. Councilman Jim Trakas said the city should speak to the business community before forcing developers to pay for an additional foot.

The amendment passed with councilpersons Chris Walchanowicz, Narduzzi, John DiGeronimo and Vice Mayor David Grendel voting in favor and councilpersons Togliatti, Trakas and Veverka voting against.

Gero said a proposal for adjusting the requirement of number of spaces could be before council in another month or two.

Business relocation

K&M International, doing business as Wild Republic, is a company that manufactures and sells nature-related toys and gifts, according to its website. The company will relocate from Twinsburg to the former Kichler Lighting building at 7711 East Pleasant Valley Rd.

Hyser said the company would use the building as its headquarters, occupying 400,000 square feet of the 600,000-square-foot building. Wild Republic will bring 87 employees to the building and a payroll of $4 million. The city is offering a grant of 10% of its income taxes for three years for $24,000 total.

A representative from the company said Wild Republic has manufacturing factories in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and China. The company would distribute out of the Independence location with the goal of increasing the payroll to $5.5 million and taking over the entirety of the building, both within a five-year period.

Snowplow routes

Council previously awarded contracts to four contractors to provide senior citizens, disabled persons and active military resident snowplowing services for 14 of 21 routes in the city. Procurement Coordinator Dennis Zdolshek said he re-bid the seven routes not covered and Alexis Properties and Universal were chosen to cover the remaining routes.

“That would give us full coverage for all the houses or past houses that signed up for the program,” said Zdolshek.

Alexis Properties asked that three driveways be removed from a route because they were challenging, meaning the city will plow those three drives. Zdolshek said the cost per snow event for all 21 routes is $23,600, which comes to $32.40 per driveway, per snow event. Zdolshek said the city estimates 729 homes will sign up for snowplow service.