Council acts to bar short-term home rentals

by Laura Bednar

Sept. 12 city council meeting

After a lengthy discussion, Independence City Council voted to change city ordinances to prevent short-term rentals. The language prohibits single-family dwellings or an individual room within a dwelling from being leased or rented for fewer than 30 days.

“What this is trying to do is to make sure that our residential neighborhoods are residential in nature as well as in function, and they are not being used for commercial purposes,” said councilperson Jim Trakas.

Councilpersons Anthony Togliatti and Chris Walchanowicz said there were homes on their streets that were being rented. Some were listed on Airbnb.

Trakas said one reason for the legislation is to prevent “nefarious activities” in the city. He cited Richmond Heights having trouble with drug use and prostitution in temporary homes as an example.

Councilperson John DiGeronimo said he thinks people should be able to request a variance to allow for an Airbnb rental. “I don’t think it would be a bad option to have in town,” he said.

Councilperson Dale Veverka, the sole dissenting vote, asked how city officials will know these rentals are happening and how the new regulation can be enforced. He said several pieces of legislation have been added to the books to prevent certain activities “and we don’t seem to follow through with these pieces of legislation.” He cited feeding deer and storing recreational vehicles as examples.

Mayor Greg Kurtz outlined the enforcement process. “When we get the calls, we send someone out, we identify the situation, and we attempt to rectify informally through cooperation. After that, then we do a more formalized formal citation,” he said.

Law Director Greg O’Brien said the city could definitively show a home was in violation of the rental code if the home was advertised as a rental online.

Walchanowicz suggested hiring someone in the building department to monitor and enforce rental regulations and ordinances that Veverka said are not enforced.

Veverka also said the rental legislation would prevent elderly residents from supplementing their fixed income. He suggested reducing the number of days to less than 30. Trakas suggested council first monitor how the legislation functions as is.

“We’re not going out looking for trouble,” said Councilman Tom Narduzzi. “All the legislation is doing is giving us the power. When trouble comes to us we have to be able to defend ourselves.”

Service equipment

Council approved purchasing several pieces of equipment for the service department.

The first was four new 2025 Wittke residential front loaders (garbage trucks) for $1.4 million. Service Director Ron McKinley said the department is trading in three front loaders and keeping one as a backup. The trade-in value is $350,000. All four loaders have a lead time of up to 24 months before delivery.

The department purchased a 2024 Vac-Con for $480,474.

A 2023 Schwarze A7 sweet sweeper is on the ground and ready for pickup. The cost is $367,481, and the funds are available in the city’s five-year capital plan, according to Finance Director Vern Blaze.

McKinley said he hopes to have the department’s new Ford F-550 truck by mid-October or early November. The cost is $80,177. Council also approved purchase of a $107,028 swaploader, for snow and ice conditions, that will be mounted on the F-550.

New office property

A new 260,000-square-foot industrial building on Rio Nero Drive is under construction. The building will host two tenants, Faber-Castell and Millcraft Paper Company. Construction cost is approximately $18.3 million, according to Economic Development Director Jessica Hyser. She said the property will be part of the city’s tax increment financing model, a property designation that distributes portions of property taxes to the city for infrastructure projects and school districts.

The building will be part of a 30-year TIF agreement at the end of which Hyser said the city will gain $4.7 million and the Independence Local Schools and Cuyahoga Valley Career Center will jointly receive $6.8 million. This breaks down to $382,000 annually with $155,900 going to the city and the remainder going to the schools.

Snow removal

Council changed the qualifications for residents to receive city snow removal services. Residents age 60-74 will pay $50 per season and those 75 and older will pay $25 per season. Deployed active military personnel will pay $25 per season. Disabled residents under 60 will pay $25 per push.

Beginning with the 2024-25 winter season, the qualifying age for snow removal will be raised to 65. Any resident who previously participated in the program will be grandfathered in.

In other news

The city will contribute funds to the construction of the Schaaf Road bridge in partnership with Cuyahoga County. The bridge runs over West Creek, south of Granger Road, and the cost is $3.2 million. The city will help pay for the county’s portion of the project through its County Motor Vehicle License Tax Fund. Construction is planned for 2026.

O’Brien Pools will repair and resurface the city’s outdoor swimming pool for $191,741, which includes a contingency. Recreation Director Tom Walchanowicz said the pool hasn’t been resurfaced in 24 years. The usual life expectancy is 8-15 years. ∞