Selective code enforcement raises fairness questions - in tremont - etc.

Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Mon, 06/22/2009 - 00:35.

Selective code enforcement raises fairness questions
by Jerleen Justus

(Plain Press, June 2009) The City of Cleveland Department of Building and Housing’s Mission Statement States:  "To assure that all existing and new structures in the City of Cleveland are maintained and constructed in a safe and habitable manner through enforcement of the building and zoning codes pursuant to the review of plans, issuance of permits and inspection of property."

On the 5th floor of Cleveland City Hall, it is just a short walk from the Board of Zoning Appeals Hearing Room where variances are granted or denied to the Department of Building and Housing where the permit applications, actual permits and files are kept. As one examines these public records, filing dates, application status and work descriptions, a long history of a lack of code enforcement in Ward 13 amongst Tremont's high-end bar, restaurant and nightclub retail district begins to unravel.

NEWS ANALYSIS

The mystery behind this long stretch of non-compliance has struck a raw nerve among many of the low-income, minority and elderly residents in Tremont as Tremont West Development Corporation’s (TWDC’s) Housing Committee, working in unison with Cleveland Building and Housing Department’s Assistant Director Ron O'Leary, has been stepping up the residential housing code enforcement for some time. This has created a double standard regarding code enforcement in Tremont by the City of Cleveland.

As hush-hush whispers traveled the circuit and it became common knowledge that all the chiefs had circled the wagons in an effort to keep behind closed doors the details of a powwow that took place in the TWDC conference room on the subject of code enforcement and the lack thereof. It was discussed at the board meeting on May 21, 2009. A letter on the subject was presented to TWDC Executive Chris Garland. The TWDC Housing Committee expects a follow-up and answer no later than June 5, 2009, regarding this matter.

While the lack of required parking space is slated as the top priority concern for both retail and residential areas in Tremont, there are other city code violations, which are not enforced, as it has been common practice for Tremont West Development Corporation to support a double standard for code enforcement.

At the April session of TWDC's Long Range Planning Committee, Co-chair Sandy Smith, with her dander up, stated that the owner of the Tree House had a non-compliant second patio constructed in his four-car parking lot. Yet, Tremont West's own newsletter "Inside Tremont" couldn't resist selling add space for the Tree House to promote live entertainment for which city records indicate no permit or variance for these activities is currently on file. Records show that other kindred establishments in the Tremont area that are missing live entertainment permits and variances are Edison's Pub, 806 Wine Bar, Tree House, Flying Monkey, South Side, Lava Lounge and Duck Island Club.

News of the non-compliant "free passes" in the Tremont Retail District has climbed aboard the hugger-mugger channels and rode the rails into surrounding communities creating a stir among some of the bar/restaurant business owners in other vicinities who know first hand what it's like to be called up to muster on issues such as no dancing allowed (Dance Hall and Music Permits), illegally permitted patios, variances for live entertainment including DJ's, and no Certificates of Occupancy. The granting of each or all of these permits and/or variances when applied for creates new guideposts for the number of off-street parking requirements needed for each business. The above locations publicly advertise live entertainment.

West 25th Street Envy Lounge owner Zlantan Miskan better known as "Z" to friends and customers says that he has received more than his share of citations in the past year since Ari Maron purchased a strip of property where a development project is soon scheduled to begin in Ohio City. While tapping on the "No Dancing" sign posted in plain view of the lounge entranceway, "at least be fair," he said.  Mr. "Z" stated, "the same thing that's going on in Tremont is going on over here.  If you're going to cite me for doing something then go down the street and cite everybody. They're trying to run me out so that they can make this a yuppie neighborhood"

Miskan further stated, "Ari Maron bought all this property.  Maron says to me I'm good with Cimperman, that’s my buddy.  You don't do what I say, I'll send you to default of lease."  

In researching public files and with the aid of City of Cleveland's online Velocity Hall Permit Manager, records show that Visible Voice Books and Prosperity Social Club are the only two businesses legally holding variances and permits for live entertainment in Tremont proper.

Research of records also shows that the locations with legally permitted expansion of use of patios as noted on the Certificates of Occupancy are Fat Cats, Visible Voice Books, South Side, Prosperity Social Club and the Tree House. This list does not include currently legal temporary use of outdoor (cafe style) seating permitted only at Parallax and Fahrenheit. Bistro at Lincoln Park is currently being researched.

As per city records, currently there are no permit applications, variances to expand legal use, or denotations listed on their Certificates of Occupancy for patio use at Flying Monkey, Edison's, 806 Wine Bar, Lava Lounge and Lincoln Park Pub. In a telephone interview, Flying Monkey owner Tom Bell stated, " I have a permit but the city must have lost it."

"I have all my permits," stated Mr. "Z", but Argos down the street, they don't have a certificate of occupancy, nothing, yet they have male strippers, DJ's, dancing, but they never get cited and nobody's gonna mess with them 'cause there's a lot of gay politicians and a lot of gay politicians go there, so," he continues, "you can't touch them."

In an attempt to clear up the years of discrimination, in handing out citations, prosecution and even demolitions of resident-owned houses, while some of the inspectors and Code Enforcement Officers overlooked and even patronize some of the non-compliant establishments, City of Cleveland Building and Housing Department Deputy Director, and Chief Building Official, David Cooper, would only say, that he would need a list of the businesses and complaints and could not answer any questions in general. He then hung up the phone.

In the light of recent indictments and charges of city building inspectors, there are points to ponder as to why non-compliance has been allowed to run rampant for so long.

 

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http://www.plainpress.org/html/stories/2009-06/selectivecodeenforcement.htm

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