Council Approves Ordinance That Allows More Types of Businesses to Use Vacant Buildings
Changes to zoning code allows more than just education-related companies to use vacant buildings like schools, churches and libraries
Cleveland Heights City Council approved an ordinance that allows more types of industries to use vacant buildings such as schools, churches and libraries in the city at its meeting Monday.
Businesses and organizations with an educational purpose can already use these vacant buildings in residential districts, with conditions.
For example, the former Coventry School, which closed in 2007, now houses the Ensemble Theatre, Cleveland Sight Center and Family Connections. In order to use the space, the new tenants had to go through the Planning Commission and get conditional use permit, which spells out rules and guidelines for using the old elementary school.
But the city wanted to expand the types of companies that can occupy the vacant buildings, including those in the green technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, with specific limitations, said Councilman Dennis Wilcox.
According to the ordinance, buildings may be converted to the following uses:
- Multifamily dwelling
- Industrial design
- Limited research and development (the company cannot manufacture a product there or use the building for outside storage, and other regulations)
- Recreation and education classes such as exercise, art, writing, theater, continuing education, after-school programs, etc.
- Other uses similar to the above found to be compatible with the larger residential district
There are several guidelines in the new ordinance posted on the city’s website. For example, new tenants must make sure that their business does not disrupt neighbors, so hours, traffic (from both pedestrians and cars) and other possible disturbances must be considered.
And, according to the ordinance, "No demolition, modifications or additions to the building and/or grounds shall be permitted which would adversely impact the residential character of the neighborhood."
That specification and others were added to ordinance since its first reading June 20.
"Additional safeguards were added to protect residential districts," Wilcox said.
The city’s Planning Commission decides if businesses and organizations should receive a conditional use permit and monitors how they use the space, even after the commission grants permission. Residents that surround the structure are notified, and can comment at the commission meetings and public hearings to provide input or raise concerns even after a business moves in. That process will not change.
The City of Cleveland Heights held a public hearing Aug. 8 in Council Chambers to tell residents more about the ordinance and get their input. The ordinance was first introduced in June with an emergency clause. People sent emails to the city and complained at that public meeting about the clause. Council removed it before the meeting.
Wilcox said again Monday that the idea to change the zoning code for came from consultant Camiros Ltd., which analyzed the city’s current laws and presented its findings in January.
The goal was to make development more sustainable, and this is the first suggestion from the study that the city has implemented.
Wilcox, Mayor Ed Kelley and council members Jason Stein and Cheryl Stephens were present and voted to approve the ordinance. Council members Bonita Caplan and Kenneth Montlack and Vice Mayor Phyllis Evans were absent. It will take effect after 30 days.