Former hotel on path to demolition; city sells two pieces of property

by Laura Bednar

May 9 city council meeting

Independence has declared the former America’s Best Value Inn at 5555 Brecksville Rd. a public nuisance, allowing the city to move forward with demolition. The property has been vacant for several years and Building Official Michael Gero said the last time legislation was brought before council to declare the property a nuisance was two and a half years ago. Since then, he said, the property owners have had no viable ideas for the property. They had proposed turning the building into a storage facility for which it is not structurally sound, according to Gero, or into multi-family housing, which the city does not permit.

Police Chief Robert Butler said police officers were previously worried about entering the building due to black mold and the structure not holding their weight. The ordinance states the property is insecure, unsafe and/or defective, which allows the city to declare it a public nuisance under local ordinances and Ohio Revised Code.

According to the ordinance, “[Council] deems it necessary to authorize the removal of the structure in order to remediate a hazard within the city and to ensure the safety of the residents of the city of Independence, the occupants of the neighboring properties and the public in general.”

A letter sent to the property owner on May 1 stated the owner has 30 days to demolish or remove the structure. If they don’t, the city will demolish it. Gero said the owner was given several notices prior to the letter.

Law Director Greg O’Brien explained that if the city has to demolish the building, the property owners must reimburse the city for demolition costs. If they don’t, a lien would be placed on the property for reimbursement, which could be collected through land sale or foreclosure, in which the city would own the property.

Economic Development Director Jessica Hyser said the cost of razing the property was between $300,000 and $380,000 according to one estimate.

The ordinance passed 5-2 with councilpersons Anthony Togliatti and Dale Veverka dissenting.

Kleber Court property

The city has been unsuccessful in purchasing or acquiring a piece of property on Kleber Court to construct a new cul-de-sac as part of a larger Kleber Court improvement project. In a 4-3 vote, with councilpersons Tom Narduzzi, Chris Walchanowicz, John DiGeronimo and Vice Mayor David Grendel voting in favor and councilpersons Anthony Togliatti, Dale Veverka and Jim Trakas voting against, the city will appropriate the land.

Mayor Greg Kurtz said taking the property will not displace a person, as there is no dwelling there. He added that the city was given permission to use the land in the 1980s, and this ordinance formalizes that. If the property were not obtained, it would delay the Kleber Court project.

“It strikes me that this is very late in the game considering when the engineering and everything else was done,” said Veverka. “This should have been pursued earlier on.”

Togliatti stated concerns about the precedent this sets. “This is essentially eminent domain,” he said, adding that he’d like to see an agreement worked out with the property owner.

The city used an appraisal company, which valued the property at $3,405. Kurtz said the property owner wanted $25,000. O’Brien said conversation about price have been ongoing since March. He said he will continue to work with the negotiator and bring the numbers to the administration.

Property sale

The city will sell property at 5469 Old Brecksville Rd. and 5572 Brecksville Rd. to VRK Holdings for $610,000. The property at 5469 was purchased from the Ohio Department of Transportation and transferred to the city in 2022. The city’s service department was using it for storing equipment, materials and salt.

A memo from Hyser stated, “The bidder [VRK] is also the property owner of the remaining parcels stretching from Old Brecksville Road north to the ODOT property and has visions of redeveloping the entire stretch into industrial flex space, office in the front with warehouse in the back, in the near future.”

Independence would retain use of the salt dome on the property for two years and can utilize the ODOT property for storage if the developer is not utilizing the property. The ordinance passed with Togliatti and Veverka voting against and DiGeronimo abstaining.

Electric vehicle chargers

City council approved a six-month moratorium on electric vehicle charging stations. This means that no permits for charging stations will be issued until regulations are created to add to the city’s zoning code. Gero said he is working with the fire and economic development departments on the regulations. He hopes to have language on charging stations for council to review by July. ∞