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University Heights and JCU settle on ROTC property

March 24th, 2011

A resolution has been brokered between the city of University Heights and John Carroll University concerning the use of a University-owned house on Carroll Boulevard located next to the shopping center on Fairmount Circle.

“Overall, the City and the University are very pleased to be working together and move forward in a positive way,” said Dora Pruce, director of government and community relations at JCU.

University Heights Mayor Susan Infeld concurred with the sentiment.

“I am thrilled it’s settled and over with. Now we can move forward with the University to achieve mutual, shared interests,” said Infeld.

The controversy over the Carroll Boulevard property began last fall when JCU sought a special use permit from the city in order to transition it from a two-family home into administrative offices for the ROTC and military science programs.

The University Heights Zoning Board approved the permit with restrictions, which Infeld called “typical concerns.” These included prohibiting military vehicles on the property, designating that staff park on JCU’s campus, restricting the office’s operating hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., no signage could appear on the second story of the building and occupancy had to be determined by the building commissioner and fire chief.

The University has said it was fine with those restrictions.

However, University Heights City Council placed additional restrictions on the permit, which the University did not agree with, including prohibiting JCU from buying any more property in the neighborhood, seeking tax exempt status on the property, and rezoning any more residential properties.

It was after city council passed the added restrictions that the University appealed the decision. The dispute was moving through the courts until this month when JCU and University Heights came to a compromise.

The agreement includes the Zoning Board’s original restrictions, as well as a commitment from JCU to not rezone any more property on Carroll Boulevard for five years, except in conjunction with the City, and to not pursue any further litigation concerning the property, except in the event the City breaks the agreement.

Pruce said, “The settlement helps obtain our [the City’s and University’s] mutual goal of stabilizing and enhancing the character and harmony of the area in and around the University.”

According to Infeld, increasingly expensive legal fees and preserving the City’s image were benefits to settling the matter.

“John Carroll is the largest employer and landholder in the city. It’s not good and doesn’t promote the image of University Heights as friendly [when the City and JCU  are engaged in litigation]. I’m happy it’s resolved and settled. We’re a college town and this is not the image of the City I want to present to the world,” said Infeld.

According to Pruce, the timeline for when ROTC offices will move into the house are still being worked out.

“The house needs more renovation work to become office space, so now that we have settled with the city, we are assessing how much more construction work needs to be done to convert the house to administrative use,” said Pruce.

The office space currently used by ROTC in the Lombardo Student Center is being assessed for how it can be utilized after ROTC transitions to the Carroll Boulevard office. Pruce said there are a number of JCU departments whose office space is currently constrained.