John Carroll University, which was hoping to transition one of its properties in University Heights from residential to ROTC offices, recently appealed the City’s motion allowing it to do so. It was certain City stipulations that made JCU reject the offer.
According to Dora Pruce, JCU’s director of government and community relations, the University was fine with restrictions regarding the office’s hours of operation and where the staff could park. However, there were three restrictions with which the University could not agree.
The first disagreeable condition was that the City wanted JCU to not seek tax-exemption status on that property. Second, the City wanted the University’s commitment to not purchase anymore houses on Carroll Boulevard, Kerwick Road or Hadleigh Road. Third, this was to be the last University Heights house that JCU transitioned from residential living to office space.
“It was the fact that they tied it [the restrictions] all together that was our problem. It’s not that we just dismissed all these things outright. It shouldn’t all be conditional to if we get this permit or not,” said Pruce.
The University Heights City Council passed the motion with restrictions at its Sept. 7 meeting after several residents appealed a decision made by the City’s Board of Zoning Appeals that would have allowed JCU to rezone the property with some of the restrictions applied. The conditions of the BZA included the restrictions on parking, hours of operation and where signs could be placed.
The City had discussed the issue at its Aug. 23 meeting and decided on the additional conditions, but the matter was tabled.
Mayor Susan Infeld said, “The council continued its consideration of the appeal at the Sept. 7 council meeting. There was discussion about the conditions.”
After discussion about the issue, the council voted twice. The first vote was to simply sustain the appeal by the citizens and lost 4-3. The second, which passed 4-3, allowed JCU to transition the property but with the additional conditions from the City.
City Council was unavailable for comment.
According to JCU President, the Rev. Robert Niehoff, S.J., the University has filed a notice of appeal with the Common Pleas Court of Cuyahoga County.
“We need to move forward and can no longer wait for these kinds of needless delays. We have waited too long already, in deference to and reliance upon the City, all to our detriment. Regarding our long-term plans that we shared with the City over two years ago, we will definitely pursue all of our available and appropriate options,” said Niehoff.
Infeld noted the University’s concerns about the City’s conditional approval for the project.
“The Appeal says that the University believes the imposition of the additional conditions were and are unconstitutional, illegal, arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and not supported by the preponderance of reliable, substantial and probative evidence,” said Infeld.
While the matter is waiting to be heard, the project is on hiatus.