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Top of the Hill neighbors want leaky parking garage fixed, dog park moved

Top of the Hill neighbors want leaky parking garage fixed, dog park moved

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — When it rains, it pours — inside the new Top of the Hill parking garage, next-door neighbors in The Buckingham condominiums told City Council this week.

Buckingham spokesman Don King sent out video to city officials last week, chronicling the sights and sounds inside the five-story garage during a recent rainstorm. Although the video images could not be shared in council chambers, the dripping water and accompanying narrative could be heard clearly.

“If you watch the video, it’s pretty stunning,” Councilwoman Melody Joy Hart told her colleagues Monday night (Oct. 4). “I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like in the winter.”

That was King’s chief concern as well. With water not running into the drains correctly, Buckingham residents avoid parking in the center of the 500-plus-space garage every time it rains.

“But with water rolling down four flights in the garage, once it freezes, it’s going to mean walking on a sheet of ice in the winter,” King said. “It’s a concussion or a broken knee waiting to happen.”

He invited council members to visit any time it rains, although he noted that Buckingham residents have now “given up (direct) sunlight for the next six months,” as their building is overshadowed by the 10-story residential high-rise next door.

As for the parking garage, Councilwoman Davida Russell said, “It just simply needs to be fixed.”

Tale of two dog parks

King also renewed his call for the developer — Indianapolis-based Flaherty & Collins — to relocate its future tenants-only dog park from its proposed spot next to The Buckingham over to The Ascent’s own new buildings off of Euclid Heights Boulevard, on the actual grassy median as opposed to artificial turf, or near the designated green space next to the garage.

“But Flaherty & Collins just say that the plans have already been approved by the city,” King said.

Meanwhile, over in Shaker Heights, where the plans for the proposed Van Aken District “Phase II” are nearing completion for a 228-unit twin apartment high-rise of 15 and 18 stories, city officials and the local developer, RMS Investment Corp., have already taken their dog park out of the equation.

Shaker officials noted earlier that plans called for that dog park to be situated on the east side of the property facing Ohio Savings Bank, rather than on the west side of the apartment complex — which would have been closer to adjacent condominium owners — or in the back, nearer to the Shaker Heights Country Club.

Homeowner diversion program

In other recent business, Hart announced the Oct. 1 kickoff of a new out-of-court diversion program through which qualifying homeowners charged with housing code violations can avoid prosecution.

With the additional burden of fines, sentencing and time spent in court, residents could easily become caught in a cycle of legal and financial trouble as the repairs went undone, Hart noted in a press release.

“In addition, local courts and housing inspectors were using time and resources going after homeowners who just couldn’t comply,” she added, recounting her time as a housing advocate with the Greater Cleveland Congregations.

Now on City Council, Hart brought together Housing Director Allan Butler, attorney Pam Roessner, Cleveland Heights Municipal Court Judge James J. Costello and Keesha Allen, director of the Home Repair Resource Center (HRRC), to negotiate an agreement to divert cases to the HRRC for homeowner counseling and assistance with court oversight.

“This process makes the city housing department more effective, because inspectors would not go out in a futile effort to get a house repaired when the owner simply cannot do it,” Hart said. “It gets the house fixed — and that should be the goal of our housing inspections.”

Residents with code violations will fill out an application. Once accepted, they will be assigned to HRRC with an extended deadline for hearings and progress updates to the court.

The innovative program, a collaboration between public and private stakeholders, could result in residents being freed from any criminal liability, as well as a conservation of resources for the courts and housing inspectors.

“Most importantly, more homes will be repaired and brought up to code, without causing unintended harm to low-income and financially disadvantaged residents,” Hart added in the press release.

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