Council changes public participation rules; city gains fastener company

by Laura Bednar

April 9 city council meeting

Independence City Council voted to approve council rules for 2024-25, including changes in public participation, public records and committee assignments. Many organizational protocols remained the same.

Under the new rules, the public can speak during regular council meetings, but public participation is at the discretion of council members during special meetings.

Law Director Greg O’Brien said, “From a legal perspective, audience participation is not required under Ohio law, so whatever council wants to do as far as how you treat audience participation, you have flexibility or not, it’s certainly within council’s purpose.”

In the case of a special council meeting or virtual meeting, the 2024-25 rules state that council “may” allow public comment, leaving it up to the elected officials during the meeting. The 2022-23 rules stated council “shall” allow public participation at these meetings.

Virtual comments must be submitted through the “questions” feature on the online platform and if allowed during the meeting, the clerk of council will read them into the record.

“If council doesn’t want to allow that, then the clerk will not read any comments,” said O’Brien.

Said Mayor Greg Kurtz, “I go along with the [regular] council meeting protocols because it’s very clear, and then in a special meeting if we want to change it and let someone speak, we can do that, but it’s not a give and take. I think people misunderstand; there’s not a question-and-answer period, it’s a comment period.”

Council members also amended the rules to clarify that council meetings and standing committee meetings will be transcribed. The phrasing “meeting minutes” was replaced with “transcriptions” to ensure the meeting coverage will be written verbatim, as it has been in the past.

Public records provided to mayor and/or council for any regular, special or committee meeting agenda will be made publicly available on the city’s website at least 24 hours before the meeting or when provided to the mayor and/or council, whichever is earliest. This is a change from 48 hours in the 2022-23 rules.

The vice mayor will no longer propose standing committee assignments for council members. Under the new rules, each council member will submit their committee assignment preferences to the clerk of council. Members will meet and discuss the assignments before voting on them.

Business relocation

Facil, a mobility fastener company, is moving its headquarters to Independence, leasing 20,000 square feet of office space at 6111 Oak Tree Blvd. Economic Development Director Jessica Hyser said the company will bring 47 jobs and $3.5 million in payroll. The company plans to sign a 10-year lease and increase employees and payroll to 67 and $5.25 million, respectively, within five years.

Independence will provide a grant equal to 20% of the company’s income taxes for the first five years of the lease.

Facil is currently located in Twinsburg. Engineering Manager Brian Moreal said the company provides fasteners to the commercial and automotive industries. He said the preliminary timeline shows the company moving near the end of the year.

Public participation

Resident Daniel Sobotka expressed displeasure with the proposed housing development on property the city purchased from Concordia Lutheran Church on Brecksville Road. “The neighbors around Concordia don’t want it,” he said. “Concordia should be kept as a public park for the people as an enduring gift. Authorize a study for laying out the park.”

He added that he was concerned about widening Brecksville Road and the potential lane addition to Pleasant Valley Road, which is under discussion. He said it is making voters angry and asked council to “demonstrate that you really care about our residents and what they want.”

Resident Christine Novak also spoke about the Brecksville Road project. “If anybody is serving today in any capacity of the city and you own property down there [Brecksville Road], then I would ask you to please recuse yourself from any meetings, any discussions and the opinions about that when you’re in the capacity of serving as a representative of our city,” she said. ∞