City plans to demolish Stone Road home as a public nuisance

by Laura Bednar

Oct. 10 city council meeting

Independence City Council notified the owner of a house at 7905 Stone Rd. that the city plans to flatten the structure. Building official Michael Gero said the property was recognized as a nuisance in June 2022.  

“At one point there were 13 abandoned vehicles on the property,” said Gero. He added that after the owner was notified the city was getting involved, he removed two cars but made no other effort to improve the home’s appearance or infrastructure.

In July of this year, the owner asked for a list of contractors to fix the house but made no changes to the property. Gero said the property has not been occupied for over a decade and is not habitable or easily accessible. The property owner filed an appeal before the board of zoning appeals but did not come to the board’s meeting.

Council approved hiring C&J Contractors to demolish the property for $17,250. Mayor Greg Kurtz said the city communicated with the property owner’s attorney, and “he understood the city’s position that we are moving forward.”

Law Director Greg O’Brien said the demolition cost will be assessed to the homeowner’s taxes. He said the city will notify the owner when the contractor will come to the property.

Legal funds

Finance Director Vern Blaze reported changes to the city’s annual appropriations, the most notable a $200,000 increase to the legal fund. Blaze said Independence averages $40,000 per month, $500,000 each year for legal billing. The increase, Blaze said, is to help pay for the city’s ongoing lawsuit regarding the northwest quadrant properties.

According to Assistant Law Director Will Doyle, developer Industrial Realty Group purchased 33 acres in the northwest quadrant of the city. The purchase agreement was “subject to and conditioned upon the approved design, planning and construction of development of the 33 acres to create economic development within the city and increase the city’s municipal income tax and property tax collections.”

IRG did not submit a development plan to the planning commission or other legislative bodies within the 360-day timeline after purchasing the land in 2019.

“IRG alleged that it could purchase the property from the city anyway at a price that is substantially below fair market value,” said Doyle. The city filed a complaint in the spring of 2021 in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas to nullify the agreements based on IRG’s breach and order distribution of $25,000 in escrowed funds to the city.

Police recognition

Independence police officers Gregory Smagola and Mark Hoprich retired but were authorized to keep their firearms and badges. Smagola served the city for 33 years and was a sniper on the special weapons and tactics team for 10 years. According to councilperson Tom Narduzzi, he was also instrumental in developing the city’s deer hunting program. Hoprich served the city for 25 years and was a member of the special weapons and tactics team and a sniper with the SWAT team for 20 years. ∞