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Richfield Council agrees to review BZA decisions on use variances

3/14/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Jeff Gorman

During the March 5 meeting, Richfield Village Council gave itself the authority to review the Board of Zoning Appeals’ decisions on use variances, but some Council members also discussed the concept of doing away with use variances altogether.

Councilman Ralph Waszak explained Council had this authority for about 20 years, beginning during his administration as mayor years ago, and he said it was used “very infrequently.”

However, when the zoning code was recently revised, the so-called “callup” authority was not included.

Councilman Hank Novak said he would like to get rid of use variances altogether.

“I predict that my term on Council will expire before that happens,” Novak said.

Councilwoman Barbara Lanford agreed.

“I would like us to begin the process of eliminating use variances,” she said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended disapproval of the callup authority, so Council needed a five-vote supermajority to pass the ordinance. Novak voted against it, and Councilman Mike Wheeler was absent, but the other five members voted “yes.”

During Mayor Bobbie Beshara’s report, she accepted a check for $50,000 on behalf of the village from Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council Marketing Director Denise Steen. Some of these funds will go toward energy-efficient improvements to the Masonic building, such as lighting, heating and air conditioning, according to village officials.

Beshara also recommended Lois Czekaj as the newest member of the Human Services Commission. Council approved the recommendation for Czekaj to fill the rest of the term of Kathy Fedrowisch through the end of 2014. Fedrowisch has become a part-time Senior Center employee, the mayor said.

Council also accepted Beshara’s recommendation to hire Christopher Null and Geoffrey Kouzas as part-time fire medics.

After the mayor swore them in, Council President Rick Hudak thanked the Fire Department for its recent help of one of his family members.

“We have a very dedicated, professional [and] proficient Fire Department,” he said. “To get help from someone you know on a first-name basis demonstrated what you mean to the community. I can’t commend you enough for being there when we needed you.”

Beshara announced residents who are concerned about the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District stormwater management fees can come to a meeting March 19 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall, two hours before the regular Council meeting.

The mayor also reminded residents about the Lake Erie Monsters hockey game at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland March 23. The Police Department is selling tickets for $20, with $5 going to the D.A.R.E. program. Beshara will ride the Zamboni ice-sweeping machine during the intermission between the first and second period.

In other news:

  • Police Chief Keith Morgan introduced his two new part-time officers, Stephanie Thomas and Stephen Vari, to Council, which approved their hiring at the Feb. 19 meeting.
    Morgan also said the police and fire departments will present Safety Town this year during the week of June 17. [For more information on that, see “Local police departments announce upcoming Safety Town information” in the March 7, 2013, edition or visit the archives at www.akron.com.]
  • Fire Chief Jason Mihalek said Assistant Fire Chief Phil McLean have been working on a mass casualty plan, which would streamline resources into Richfield in the event of an incident with 10 or more victims.
    Mihalek also thanked the Bath and Hinckley fire departments and the Valley Fire District for their help on a recent structure fire, and he also talked about a chimney fire at another residence.
    “The smoke detector worked and allowed the resident to escape the fire,” he said. “Many times, we find that there is not a working smoke detector.”
  • Recreation Director Ruth Jocek said the Easter Egg Hunt is scheduled for March 23 at 11 a.m. behind Town Hall.
    She also said the Project Pride Community Cleanup Day and the Arbor Day Tree Giveaway are both scheduled for April 27 at 9 a.m.
  • Planning and Zoning Director Brian Frantz said the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the final development plan for a new Subway restaurant at the site of the old Dairy Queen.
  • Finance Director Sandy Turk said the village financial report for 2012 has been filed with the State Auditor’s Office and is available on the website.
    She also said income tax revenue in February was up 8.5 percent from the same month in 2012. For the year to date, revenue is up 3.8 percent, Turk said.
  • Council authorized a contract with the Ohio Department of Transportation for the widening of the Broadview Road bridge over Interstate 271.
  • Waszak said the Tree and Landscape Commission will take a bus tour of the village’s cemeteries, parks and other public spaces at its next meeting March 21 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Lanford said she would like to schedule a work session to establish goals to promote appropriate budgeting. That work session is scheduled for March 21 at 7:30 p.m.

The next regular Village Council meeting is scheduled for March 19 at 8 p.m. at Town Hall, 4410 W. Streetsboro Road. Hudak said this meeting might include a vote on the proposed rezoning of the property that includes the old Richfield School from R-2 (Single-Family Residential) to R-3 (Cluster Residential).

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