February 11, 2021

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cuyahoga County Administration Building was closed for public meetings at the time of the meeting. As a result, this meeting was conducted remotely in accordance with State of Ohio HB 197. Interested persons could access the meeting via livestream by using the following link found at www.countyplanning.us

The meeting of the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission (County Planning) was called to order by Director Michael Dever at 2:03 p.m. and the roll call showed a quorum was present.


Election of Officers
The floor was opened for nomination of Planning Commission Chair. Director Dever stated that he is open to continue as Chair. Councilperson Simon took over the vote as Mayor Sellers nominated Director Michael Dever, with a second by Mayor Byrne. With no other nominations from the floor, the nominations were closed. The vote was unanimous to re-elect Director Dever as Chair.

Director Dever continued chairing the meeting.

The floor was opened for nomination of Planning Commission Vice-Chair. Director Dever nominated Councilperson Simon, with a second by Mayor Sellers. Councilperson Simon accepted the nomination. With no other nominations from the floor, the nominations were closed. The vote was unanimous to re-elect Councilperson Simon as Vice-Chair. 

On a motion by Director Dever, seconded by Mayor Bobst, the minutes for the December 10, 2020 meeting were duly adopted by unanimous vote. 

No old business

Director Collier attached a link to “Building the 21st Century City: The Future is Now!” virtual symposium on March 2nd and 3rd 2021. In partnership with ULI Cleveland, the Cleveland Foundation and the City of Cleveland, the symposium should be relevant to all municipalities. The purpose of the symposium is to challenge cities to think about technology and innovation; the symposium will introduce both local and national speakers focusing on technology, mobility, and equitable economic development. Director Collier encouraged all to register and attend.  Post symposium there will be additional actions that will take place.


Resolution No. 210211-A
Approving the provision of planning and administrative services to the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability in supporting the implementation of the Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Grant Program.

Ms. Cierebiej gave a brief discussion of the briefing memo and resolution: announcing that Ms. Alison Ball will be speaking on both the previous Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Grant Program and on this round of funding. This resolution will fund plan year 2021, the last program year was 2019, due to COVID-19 uncertainty, there was no funding or programming for year 2020. Plan year 2021 is the same program structure and funding being implemented again.

On a motion by Mayor Gammella, seconded by Mayor Sellers, Resolution No. 210211-A, approving the provision of planning and administrative services to the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability in supporting the implementation of the Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Grant, was duly adopted by unanimous vote.

Director Dever recognized Patrick Hewitt and his great work when he stepped in as Interim Director.

Ms. Cierebiej reported on the following:

First 30 Days…

  • Thank you again for your vote of confidence!
  • Completed One-on-Ones with all team members.
  • Met with County Executive, PRC, Finance, HR and Legal.
  • NOACA Board Meeting, NOACA Planning & Programming Committee Meeting.
  • Human Resources, Appointments & Equity Committee Meeting of County Council and County Council Meeting.
  • Three Lakefront Public Meetings.
  • #OhioLovesTransit Campaign Video.
  • Project and Program Meetings.
  • Managers Meetings & Staff Meetings.
  • Policies, Procedures, IT Needs, & moving forward.

Lakefront Public Access Plan Update
The Lakefront Property Owners meetings were held January 12th & 14th with 140 total participants, and a Public Meeting was held January 28th with 300 participants. The property owner survey is complete, and the public survey is open until March 1st, all the information is available on the County Planning website.

Healthy Urban Tree Canopy (HUTC) Grant Program
The 2021 Healthy Urban Tree Canopy (HUTC) Grant Program launched on January 22nd and is a partnership with the Cuyahoga County Office of Sustainability, Soil & Water Conservation District and Board of Health, and County Planning.  Alison Ball provided an update later at this meeting.

Cuyahoga Greenways Partners Executives Meeting
The Cuyahoga Greenways Partners Executives meeting was hosted by Ms. Grace Gallucci on January 19th,, 2021; Director Zimmerman of the Cleveland Metroparks will host the next meeting on March 30th, 2021. The #OhioLovesTransit promotion came out of the Executives meeting to provide support and bring before this commission. Elaine Price and Michael Mears provided an update later at this meeting. 

Budget Update
A Biennial budget report with no action required at this time will be presented by Ms. Jennifer Karaffa later at this meeting. County Planning is working to identify revenue generating work for 2021. It is important continue to be a viable organization and to look for opportunities to provide revenue generating work. 

Board Seat Updates
A Thank you to Mayor Sellers and Mayor Brennan was given for their willingness to continue serving on the Planning Commission Governing Board, and a recommendation made to renew their appointments will be presented at the Human Resources, Appointments & Equity Committee of County Council on January 19th, 2021. 

Kudos Corner
A Congratulations was given to Rachel Novak at County Planning on earning her American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification in late 2020. Rachel is the 5th member of County Planning’s team to obtain an AICP certification.

A Congratulations was given to intern Laura Mendez Ortiz on her recent completion of the Masters of Community Planning degree from the University of Cincinnati College of DAAP School of Planning. She is back for her 2nd Internship at County Planning through early May 2021.

Ms. Alison Ball stated that the Cuyahoga County Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Grant Program is a cooperative program with Cuyahoga County, Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District, and Cuyahoga County Board of Health with County Planning as the Fiscal Administrator.  The partners work together on the methodology as this is a competitive grant program. Ms. Ball gave a summary of Program Year 2019 with the planting of over 1,400 trees through nine implementation grants, along with 14 plans for future planting work, over 14,500 planting sites identified and the completion of a business plan for non-profit tree nursery in Cuyahoga County.

The purpose of this grant program is to increase the urban tree canopy and thus help lessen the impacts of climate change in Cuyahoga County.

The program goals are to:

  • Add large scale planting.
  • Expand tree canopy in areas that are vulnerable.
  • Establish new tree canopy.
  • Protect existing tree canopy.
  • Establish plans and policies that promote tree canopy.

New for PY 2021 are new forms and worksheets that have been revised and updated. Now allowing large-scale planting projects as an eligible activity, increased local match, and requiring planting within a 12–18-month timeline for all planning projects. Planting grants will fund planting and associated activities that preserve and expand the tree canopy in Cuyahoga County. Planning grants will fund activities to develop Inventories or Urban Forestry Management Plans that include potential planting sites. This round, all Planning grants must incorporate a planting component. As Ms. Ball works with applicants as they develop their plans, she emphasizes that this program is not just about planting trees but growing trees with watering, maintenance, and mulching added to the criteria for the program. This is a competitive program with the applications being evaluated on a points system by the members of the four (4) partner agencies. Application materials became available on January 22nd, 2021 with a zoom workshop on January 28th, 2021 with over 75 people in attendance. The applications are due on February 26th, 2021, with the awards announced on April 1st, 2021 with a deadline for all project’s agreements to be signed and returned by May 28th, 2021.  Awardees will be required to attend a mandatory reimbursement workshop on April 12th, 2021.

Mr. Michael Mears presented the Cuyahoga Greenway Plan that was concluded in 2019 with the goal to complete a county-wide network of off-road trails and on-road, low-stress pedestrian, and bicycle facilities accessible for persons of all ages and abilities for transportation, exercise and enjoyment. Funded through the NOACA’s Transportation for Livable Communities (TLCI) Program to bring all the pedestrian and bicycle facilities together in one unified vision for the County and building off the Eastside Greenway Plan, County Planning led this initiative for all 59 communities. Cuyahoga County Planning Commission was both the fiscal agent and lead coordinator. The Cleveland Metroparks along with NOACA joined with County Planning for a strong technical coordinating team with existing relationships and contacts within the municipalities. Because this planning effort built from the 2016 Eastside Greenway effort, the emphasis was on the central and west side communities of which 43 municipalities participated across the course of twenty community meetings and several steering committee meetings. Now we have a county-wide trail and bikeway plan, completed 2019.  This Plan is an update on the actions the partners are driving to activate projects for implementing the plan.

Mr. Mears continued with the eight core factors that have multiple data points for the Greenways Plan such as trail access, park access, habitat, socioeconomic, personal mobility, transit, job center, and commercial-civic factors. The final data set was to take all the identified routes and to create and prioritize for implementation. The “prioritization” of projects will be a balance of projects which are logically “ready” because of factors such as road resurfacing or for communities with the resources and capacity to drive a project; and projects which boost equity – serve the less served – and need a boost of assistance to get the project moving through all phases to completion. The Plan identified 12 projects with 14 miles in critical gaps, 27 projects with 122 miles for regional links and 30 projects with 107 miles for key supporting routes, with a total of 69 projects totaling 243 miles, just 40% of the 634 miles of future routes in the overall network. The Greenway Plan and Prioritization Plan is intended to be flexible and used as a guide for implementation.

Ms. Elaine Price spoke of the Cuyahoga Greenway Partners which is helping to drive the Plan’s implementation. She spoke of Raising Awareness:  critical for leaders (like Board members) to be aware of and help promote; and of new public website designed and hosted by County Planning, a place for the public to learn about upcoming trail and bikeway projects and their ongoing status. She spoke of Project collaboration and Assistance:  Cuyahoga Greenway Partners members’ staff help facilitate dialogue between communities and amongst the various agencies and departments which may need to collaborate on a project; provide advice and share expertise; develop and run workshops to educate project leaders and build trail project capacity in the communities. Elaine also spoke of Advocacy:  Cuyahoga Greenway Partners Executives are entering into dialogue and strategies on trail, bike and transportation topics at all levels:

  1. Working towards getting the Cuyahoga Greenways Plan integrated into the new State Trail Plan.
  2. Encouraging elected officials representing Cuyahoga County (and the NOACA region) to join the bipartisan Legislative Trails Caucus which has recently developed a trails agenda.
  3. Advocating for local and state policies such as ODOT’s Active Transportation Plan, Distracted Driving Bill, Pedestrian Crosswalk Yield Bill
  4. To strengthen and increase funding.

One of the ways of getting trails projects done is through Coordinated Infrastructure. County Department of Public Works is integrating bike lane projects into their already scheduled road resurfacing schedule and work. The County Greenway Partners has launched a Coordinated Infrastructure initiative, bringing together all the Partners which lead infrastructure projects to discern to what degree (infrastructure) projects can be aligned and which Greenways facilities or components (leave-behinds) can be built as part of the infrastructure project. All communities can take advantage of this approach by working closely with Cuyahoga County Department of Public Works and these other infrastructure partners to get their trail and bikeway projects into the pipeline. The current focus list is:

  • Slavic Village Downtown Connector
  • Euclid Creek Greenway
  • Solon-Chagrin Connector
  • South Chagrin- Bedford Reservation
  • West Creek Greenway
  • Hogsback Connector
  • Lakefront Connector

Ms. Cierebiej asked for assistance in getting the information out to the communities and having an open dialogue for the interest level, project capacity, funding position, and other similar projects being considered. Director Collier stated that through this initiative gaps can be recognized and partnering municipalities to add resources for projects that are beneficial to surrounding areas.

Ms. Jennifer Karaffa shared a financial report, beginning with the 2020 budget built at $2.8 million/year. She explained how County Planning’s funding classification changed from Special Revenue Fund Agency to a true General Fund Agency after implementation of the ERP system. She reported how the County Budget Office asked for a budget reduction target of 15% due to COVID-19 uncertainty. Cost cutting measures were enacted to try and reach the target reduction with a mandatory furlough of forty hours, cuts the annual merit program, a hiring freeze, and cuts to its professional development programs. Ultimately, the 2020 budget was not reduced though the reductions were honored. During this time County Planning continued to receive revenues from multiple sources such as charges for Services (Contracts) and intergovernmental Funds (OPWC). In total County Planning generated over One Hundred and Thirty-Two Thousand dollars in outside revenues last year. An additional Two Hundred and Seventy-Five Thousand Eight Hundred dollars were recognized but as a pass-through funding source from Department of Public Works to finance the Lakefront Public Access Plan with the contract with Smithgroup.

The year ended with an overall surplus largely due to a salary surplus due to unfilled but funded positions as well as operating another 6 months with an Interim Executive Director. County Planning continued to provide Community Planning Grants through its competitive grants program awarding Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand dollars of in-kind services for planning and zoning work.  As well, County Planning continued to administer the 2019 Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Grant program although there was not a new round of funding in 2020 but County Planning, as the fiscal agent for the grant program, issued close to half a million dollars in reimbursements for 2019 awards.  Financial goals for 2021 include:

  • Continue to bring in contract revenue.
  • Redirect portion of outside revenues to workforce investment / employee professional development.
  • Redirect portion of outside revenues to fund new project timekeeping software and computer equipment.

No emails were received for public comment.

On a motion by Director Dever, seconded by Mayor Sellers, the meeting was adjourned at 3:07 p.m.


February 11, 2021

Mayor Pamela BobstYes
Mayor Michael Dylan BrennanYes
Councilperson Shontel BrownYes
Mayor Michael ByrneYes
Director Freddie CollierYes
Director Michael DeverYes
Mayor Anthony DiCiccoNo
Mayor Michael GammellaYes
Mayor Michael ProcukYes
Mayor Brad SellersYes
Councilperson Sunny SimonYes