by Laura Bednar
Jan. 10 city council meeting
Following a public hearing, Independence City Council approved amending parking requirements for places of worship, retail stores, bars and offices.
The amendments are the second step of updating the city’s parking code. The size of parking stalls was increased from 9 feet to 10 feet at an October city council meeting.
Under the new regulation, the number of parking spaces for places of worship was expanded to one space per three seats in the church as opposed to the previous rule of one space per four seats. Building Official Michael Gero said in a Jan. 3 planning commission meeting, “You don’t necessarily have larger families that are going to church, driving to church in a station-wagon type of thing; most church-goers being individuals or couples.”
Retail stores such as banks, gift shops and barbershops are required to have one space per 175 square feet of floor area as opposed to the previous 125. Eating places such as bars and taverns are now required to have one space per 65 square feet floor area or one space for each three seats, whichever is greater, as opposed to 50 square feet or two seats. Gero said this change was instigated by the recent McDonald’s recommendation to reduce the number of parking spaces and increase the size as part of an exterior renovation including a second drive-thru.
The final change is for office buildings that are now required to have one parking space per 250 square feet of floor area, which is up from 200 square feet under the previous code. Gero cited recent parking variances for the CBIZ building on Rockside Woods Boulevard and Union Savings Bank as reasoning.
Gero looked at 13 other municipalities’ parking codes for frame of reference. He stated the city’s parking code had not been changed since the 1960s.
Vice Mayor Dave Grendel said the parking code should “be updated based on social changes to be more in line with 2023 standards as opposed to 1960.”
The new changes would not be retroactive and would only apply to new developments. If a new developer cannot meet requirements, they must ask for a variance. “This [change] will not eliminate variance requests,” Gero said.
Council member Dale Veverka said, “Churches should be excluded from the change.” He added that the amendment would make it difficult for future church development. “It strikes me as not a community-friendly way of doing business.”
Councilperson Anthony Togliatti said many people started watching services online during the height of the pandemic and also post-COVID and questioned the parking expansion.
In response, Tom Narduzzi, council member, said most of the city’s churches are in the downtown area with ample overflow parking at nearby businesses. He said any new church development would not have that option.
The parking changes were approved with a 5-2 vote. Veverka and Togliatti voted against. Veverka made a motion before the vote to leave the places of worship out of the changes. The motion failed with council members Togliatti, Jim Trakas and Veverka voting for, and Narduzzi, Grendel, John DiGeronimo and Chris Walchanowicz voting against.
Gero said the changes were not set in stone. “I think these should be put in place and evaluated later on,” he said.
Michael Perry from CBIZ Insurance recommended council forgo the services of Travelers Property Casualty Company of America for insurance underwriting services covering property, automobile, inland marine/equipment and crime insurance and instead use Selective Insurance Company of America for the services. In addition, the city purchased insurance through Selective Insurance for liability exposures.
This category would include liability insurance for sexual harassment, discrimination, diversity, law enforcement and public officials. The total cost for all insurance services through Selective Insurance is $263,194, and Perry said the liability insurance provides $6 million of coverage.
He said the city was previously declined for liability coverage from several insurance companies due to the large settlement of $973,940 paid to former Independence police Lt. Leonard Mazzola in May 2022. The settlement money came from the city’s rainy day fund, while the legal service fees came from the city’s self-insurance fund.
Civic Center renovations
The city accepted a $100,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources toward the renovation of the Civic Center kitchen. The project construction has been extended to the late spring, early summer for the least amount of disruption, according to Community Services Director Emily Thomas. She said once construction begins it could take anywhere from two weeks to one month, with the added consideration of appliance delivery time after ordering. ∞