ACAR Shares Comments on Proposed Zoning Changes in Cleveland Heights

By Jamie McMillen posted 10-05-2021 09:58:39 AM

  
The City of Cleveland Heights is considering changes to its zoning code that would alter its garage/enclosed parking requirements (Ordinance 70-2021). A public hearing was scheduled for September 30, 2021, but due to no quorum, it was rescheduled for November 1, 2021, at 6:00 pm. The City is back to in-person meetings. 

Thanks to a Realtor Party grant, the Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS (ACAR) secured a legal analysis of the proposed amendments. An initial recommendation from City Staff to Council was to eliminate the garage requirement altogether. However, the Planning Commission was asked to provide input and recommended removing the requirement for multi-family and senior apartments only, along with a few other changes.  ACAR has since submitted a letter to the City Manager, Planning Director, and City Council. An excerpt of that letter is below.   

...As you know, REALTORS® support policies that encourage housing opportunities, while protecting the quality of life that has made Northeast Ohio a desirable place to live. ACAR encourages our local governments to help expand the supply of affordable housing available for purchase or rent by individuals with middle to low or fixed incomes through a variety of means. The original draft parking amendments may have done just that. Today, we encourage you to table the ordinance as amended by the Planning Commission for further review and to reconsider the original proposal.

W
e applaud the city for including affordable housing in its Master Plan and agree that the original amendments would have supported that goal.  According to Apartments.com, “the average apartment rent in Cleveland Heights, OH is $719 for a studio, $782 for one-bedroom, $896 for two bedrooms, and $1,365 for three bedrooms.”[1]  Then, consider a 2016 report in the Housing Policy Debate journal found that “garage parking typically costs renter households approximately $142 per month or about 17% of a housing unit’s rent.” Although data specific to the added cost in Cleveland Heights is not known, the fact remains that the requirement may be decreasing affordable housing options in the City.

Next, consider the impact on homebuyers and sellers. A recent market data report, analyzing data from the MLS, shows that the median sales price for a home in Cleveland Heights was $170,000. Often, the home buying/selling transaction comes with its own set of personal challenges (birth or death, marriage or divorce, career opportunity or loss, etc.). The added expense of an enclosed parking requirement as one goes through an already burdensome, onerous, and stressful point of sale inspection may restrict access to the City for those with a low or moderate household income. A quick internet search shows the cost to build a garage is $35 – 60 per ft.2 Repair costs will vary based on identified issues but could easily total thousands of dollars. This added expense could certainly be a barrier to homeownership for those with a low-to-moderate household income who may not be able to take on the expense to repair (or raze and replace) along with the city-required escrow, down payment, private home-inspection and appraisal fees, along with other expenses associated with the transaction. 

Additionally, ACAR believes there are a few areas for concern that the City should carefully consider before enacting such an ordinance.
  •  First, we recommend that Council permit time for an analysis of the true impact on housing affordability for both renters and homeowners. If the analysis reflects national data, the Council may want to revisit the original proposal as addressing housing affordability is part of the Master Plan. 
  • Next, to alleviate burdens imposed by existing requirements for both homeowners and developers, amendments to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) existing authority, proposed by the Planning Commission, should be rejected. A legal analysis of the ordinance notes that, in Ohio, it appears the scope of a zoning board of appeals is limited to that expressly granted to it by the local legislative body. Since the City’s charter does not address its BZA authority, it would presumably be established and limited to those in Section 1109.06 of the Zoning Code, which specifies 5 circumstances. Consequently, ACAR encourages Council to adopt the original proposal that the BZA be given the authority to vary requirements for “enclosed parking spaces, private parking garages, and accessory parking spaces in all districts.”
  • Confusion continues to exist with the current set of proposed private garage standards, as clear guidance seems to be lacking for property owners and they may be vulnerable to inconsistent decision making.  
Again, ACAR encourages City Council to table the Planning Commission’s proposed amendments to the Zoning Code and reconsider the original amendments proposed by City staff. If Council is committed to addressing housing affordability, the original proposals may better help achieve that goal...

ACAR looks forward to providing public comment at the hearing scheduled for November 1, 2021, at 6:00 pm. If you would like to learn more, click here.

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