August 11, 2015 [Thomas Jewell, special to cleveland.com]
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Officials plan to post most if not all of the 124 city-owned vacant lots around town, although some could be set aside for possible land-banking ventures.
At least half of those lots are available for $100 to adjacent property owners through the “side lot program” that City Council passed in 2012, with four of those parcels having been sold so far.
“We’re trying to get the whole list online, with a picture and an explanation about the status,” Vice City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil told City Council at Monday’s (Aug. 10) Committee-of-the-Whole meeting.
Four of those lots have been sold so far, with one of those having been split between neighbors on either side along Cleveland Heights Boulevard. In those instances residents have to hire their own surveyor.
And another 19 residents have filed applications. In all, there are 195 vacant lots in Cleveland Heights, counting those that are privately owned or property of the Cuyahoga County Land Bank.
In a second piece of the strategy, there are parcels that the city wants to retain and possibly consolidate for larger development, such as lots on Superior Road near the Cleveland Heights Community Center, as well as North Coventry Road, Altamont and Desota avenues, and Sycamore Road.
“Right now, our lots are more scattered on North Coventry, but we do have some attractive land that we can assemble and ‘bank’ on Superior Road,” City Manager Tanisha Briley noted.
City officials also retain the right to hold on to any vacant lot that abuts a commercial area.
As for the 62 lots classified as “available,” city officials want to send letters out to neighboring property owners letting them know about the side lot program, although Councilman Kahlil Seren asked if they could hold off for a week so he could take a look at them.
Councilwoman Mary Dunbar said that this amounted to “micro-managing,” while Vice Mayor Cheryl Stephens also felt that Seren’s suggestion to post all 195 vacant lots — not just the ones owned by the city — was unnecessary.
“That’s like trying to sell somebody else’s car,” said Stephens, who works for the county Land Bank. “We don’t want to tie up city staff time doing other people’s due diligence.”
Seren said the focus should be on all lots in the city that are being under-utilized, not just the ones that the city owns, adding that referring people to multiple places and websites is an ordeal.
O’Neil said the objective at this point is “simply to find out if there’s any interest in the side lots,” in hopes of making them “more productive, with no lag time,” and adding that cataloging them has already been “labor-intensive” up to this point.
“Go for it,” Seren said. “This is the first time I’m looking at a list of the city’s vacant lots.
“I obviously don’t have any support on this — although I don’t see why a week is such a problem,” Seren added.
A little over a year ago and before Seren’s appointment to replace Janine Boyd, council voted 5-2 in favor of a townhouse development at the city-owned lot on the corner of Cedar and Coventry roads, a proposal that since has yet to clear the City Planning Commission.
In other business, City Planning Director Richard Wong said that a second home to treat eating disorders could mean another $1 million in payroll for a 12-bed facility for adolescents.
The new center would open up next to the existing one for adults on Overlook Road, where the projected payroll is already $1.7 million.
City Public Works Director Alex Mannarino said that with repaving projects set to go next year on both Cedar and Lee roads next year, work on Coventry Road will probably have to wait until 2017.
And on the heels of last week’s “Town Hall Telephone Meeting” involving more than 900 residents to discuss the city’s one-quarter percent wage tax increase appearing on the November ballot, city officials have another one planned for Aug. 25 at 6:30 p.m.