Two new police officers sworn in; Council reverses zoning appeal

By Sue Serdinak

Aug. 15 village council meeting

Richfield Village Mayor Michael Wheeler swore in two new full-time police officers: Robert Moderwell and Shane Williamson.

Robert Moderwell sworn in as new, full-time Richfield police officer. Photo by S. Serdinak
Shane Williamson sworn in as new, full-time Richfield police officer. Photo by S. Serdinak

Moderwell comes from the Lorain County Sheriff’s office. Before that, he worked for the Jackson Township and Dover police departments and as a corrections deputy for Summit County sheriff.

Williamson worked on road patrol for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department. He also worked part time for the Richfield department in 2022.

Police officer Jeffrey Michel is retiring from the department.

Wheeler announced that some residents are unable to pay for meals the Senior Center delivers. The cost of each meal is $3. He said he is applying for a Community Development Block Grant to purchase meals for those who cannot afford them.

Chief George Seifert reported that the fire department has been awarded an American Rescue Plan Act grant of $170,264 for retention incentives.

Council passed legislation that removes the upper age limit of 35 for new hires of the police and fire departments. The minimum age requirement for police is 21 and 18 for the fire department.

Finance Director Sandy Turk said income tax refunds for people who work for Richfield companies but live in other communities that levy an income tax totaled $380,344.  The village received $250,706 from communities that charged an income tax to Richfield residents who worked from home. The difference is $129,638.

Parks and Recreation Director John Piepsny reported that interviews are ongoing for a part-time recreation coordinator. He is also looking for instructors for the fall and winter classes. Anyone interested should contact him at

Service Director Scott Waldemarson said proposed plans for a pole barn at Eastwood Preserve and design plans for the Green will be discussed at the Aug. 29 council work session. A timber gazebo has been proposed for the Green.

There also will be a discussion about closing the east/west section of Grant Street, south of the Masonic Lodge.

Property taxes

Most property owners in Summit County received notices of increases in the appraised value of their properties. The state required the increases based on the sale price of homes in recent years.

County officials have set up times for property owners to talk to officials about their property. See article titled “County fiscal office schedules roadshow in Richfield,” which outlines where sessions will be held.

Law Director Ben Chojnacki said the village is looking into ways to help residents challenge the increases.


Wheeler said there will be detours on local roads for about two more months. Westbound Route 303 will be closed for about 60 days near the Briarwood development as a hill will be lowered to improve sight distance. Eastbound, the road will be one lane.

Brecksville Road will be closed north of Townsend Road for another month, and pavement repair will begin soon on routes 303 and 176 in the center of town following the installation of the Cleveland water line.

Zoning appeal

In a lengthy session that ended after 11 p.m., council reviewed a variance granted to a property at 4751 Brecksville Rd., which for many years served as a business location for the Richfield Radiator company. Now the property is listed as 4751 Brecksville Road LLC, and the owner is Frank Tomaro.

Planning and Zoning Director Brian Frantz said the property is located in the Commercial-2 zoning district, and the property is being used for industrial purposes with outdoor storage, and some parking areas are not paved.

“The C-2 zoning district does not permit outdoor storage. … Richfield has districts that allow outdoor storage,” he said.

Frantz said two businesses occupy the building, On-Call Waterproofing and Fleet Fixes, which requires more parking. He added that all parking areas in the village must be paved, and property set-backs honored.

“There is no hardship condition,’’ Frantz said. “Outdoor storage is needed because of the existence of a [second] tenant in the building. The condition is created by the applicant.”

The Board of Zoning Appeals approved three variances for the property, with non-unanimous votes. Council President Sue Ann Philippbar conducted the hearing and said the BZA requested that council review the decision.

Councilperson Rick Hudak repeatedly said he believed it was inappropriate for council to review the decision of the appeals board.

“I was against having this hearing. … This is a legislative body, not judicial,” he said. 

Hudak later said the property had been in great disrepair for several years. “It doesn’t look like an old radiator shop anymore,’’ he said. “He has made a 100% improvement.”

The wife of Michael Becca, operator of Fleet Fixes, spoke at length about the difficulty and expense of owning a heavy equipment repair shop and how they have tried to comply with zoning regulations.

Michael Becca acknowledged he did not look for property in the industrial zone to locate the business.

Philippbar asked Chojnacki if it would be appropriate for council to go into executive session to receive legal advice from him. Chojnacki confirmed that he could give legal advice in executive session, but council could not vote in executive session.

After returning from executive session, council voted to reverse the variances, with Hudak voting against the reversals. ∞