Council May Allow More Types of Businesses to Use Vacant Buildings
Planning Commission recommends expansion of "adaptive re-use" of non-residential buildings
Cleveland Heights City Council will consider allowing 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.
And a new tenant was granted a permit at Wednesday's Planning Commission meeting, where they discussed these changes to the zoning code.
Lake Erie Ink, an organization that provides elementary, middle and high school students with day and evening writing classes, after-school help, creative writing workshops and more, was using space within the Heights Libraries, but now will have a place to call home.
But the city wants to expand the type 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.
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."
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 would not change.
The City of Cleveland Heights held a public hearing Monday night in Council Chambers to tell residents more about the ordinance and get their input.
And the Planning Commission recommended at Wednesday night's regular meeting that council approve the changes to a zoning code that would permit more kinds of companies to use those buildings.
Wilcox said 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.
The ordinance was first introduced in June with an emergency clause. People sent emails to the city and complained at Monday's public meeting about the clause, and council removed it before the meeting. If the ordinance passes Aug. 15, it will not take effect until after 30 days.