Changes made in ordinance that assists with stormwater issues

by Laura Bednar

Aug. 8 city council meeting

Independence City Council changed the scope of an existing public-private partnership established in 2021 to assist residents with stormwater management, creek maintenance and sewer maintenance on their properties.

The ordinance is intended to help residents pay for projects affecting their property or a neighboring property that are unaffordable to the individual. Under certain circumstances, the city provides financial assistance.

Part of the amendment relates to the amount the city is willing to pay. It states, “The city may provide direct financial support of projects which shall not exceed 33% of the total cost of any project for non-assessed projects and 25% for assessed projects, provided however, the city’s participation shall not exceed $15,000 of the overall direct cost for non-assessment projects; and $20,000 of the overall direct cost for assessment projects.”

This is determined by the impact of the project on the property and/or surrounding properties.

In an Aug. 7 utilities committee meeting, Councilperson Dale Veverka suggested making homes with sewage backup in basements a priority over properties with too much water in the backyard.

In the utilities meeting, Councilperson Anthony Togliatti said the legislation was written too vaguely. “There’s no prioritization, there’s no criteria … in my perspective, it’s entirely too flexible,’’ he said. “It allows the administration to essentially have $200,000 to spend on private property.”

The city appropriated $200,000 in its five-year capital plan to use on these projects. Thus far, the city has spent $17,000 to help with six projects.

Finance Director Vern Blaze explained, “Based on the increased interest income that the city just had this year, we can increase the revenue to allow us to appropriate the additional $200,000 from the drain water fund.”

Veverka said in the utilities meeting that making council aware of which projects were selected before work begins would be beneficial.

The administration can spend up to $15,000 without council approval, per city ordinance. Projects under that amount will be reported to council and made public biannually, including the property, date of service, name of vendor performing work and the cost to the city and resident.

Another change was to specify that eligible projects must be to the exterior of the dwelling, and work can be done as close as 5 feet from the home’s foundation. A property is not eligible if the existing condition was known at the time of new home construction. There is a maximum of one project permitted per permanent parcel number. Mayor Greg Kurtz said the city engineer would review the property before starting a project.

Togliatti said the impetus of the proposal was to “spearhead neighborhood projects that spanned boundary lines” and bring properties into compliance with city ordinances. He added that most of the completed projects were on individual parcels.

Councilperson Tom Narduzzi said, “This helps people that would never take care of these problems on their own.”

Councilperson John DiGeronimo moved to remove “owner occupied” from the ordinance to include rental properties and instead change the wording to “willing property owners.” The motion was approved.

The changes to the ordinance and the appropriation of $200,000 were approved by a 5-2 vote, Togliatti and Veverka dissenting.

New businesses

The city entered into a job relocation and grant agreement with two businesses that want to move to Independence. Weltman, Weinberg & Reis, currently located in Brooklyn Heights, is a creditors rights law firm that takes legal action against those who do not repay debts. The firm will relocate to 5990 West Creek Rd. and lease 50,000 square feet for at least 10 years. Economic Development Director Jessica Hyser said the agreement requires the firm to have a $20 million payroll and minimum of 310 employees. Independence will offer them a 25% grant of their income taxes for five years, which is estimated to be $682,000.

Millcraft Paper Company, currently in Cleveland, will relocate its headquarters and distribution center to 9000 Rio Nero Dr. and lease 116,000 square feet for at least 10 years. It would relocate 60 employees with a payroll of $5 million. Independence would also offer a 25% grant of the company’s income taxes for five years, which totals $125,000.

In other news

The Ohio Department of Transportation has determined the need to resurface Granger Road from east of Tuxedo Avenue to the Garfield Heights border in the villages of Brooklyn Heights and Valley View and Independence. The project includes the Cloverleaf ramps at Granger and Brecksville roads. ODOT will split the cost with each municipality. Independence will pay $84,000 of the preliminary project estimate of $160,000 according to Engineer Don Ramm. The project will be bid out this year and resurfacing will start next year.

Independence police officer Michael Savioli retired after 49 years of service to the city. ∞