Plan to fight Cleveland's nuisance properties is a 'game changer,' planning director says

Cleveland’s building and housing director Sally Martin O’Toole briefed the city’s planning commissioners Friday about an ambitious plan to overhaul the city’s ordinances that deal with nuisance properties.

Cleveland City Planning Commission members voted unanimously to give O’Toole their administrative approval to help with Cleveland City Council’s ongoing process of amending and enacting zoning, building, fire and health codes to better serve the city’s residents and businesses.

The proposed changes have been a long time coming, said O’Toole, who was South Euclid’s housing director for 14 years prior to being hired by Cleveland in 2022.

“One of the harsh criticisms of the department of building and housing is that we are not addressing the influx of investors that come into the community and purchase the properties, don’t do the right things with them and let them become derelict properties,” O’Toole said.

So a diverse group of partners from organizations such as Cleveland City Council and Cuyahoga County’s Vacant and Abandoned Property Action Council worked for six months to come up with the Residents First Legislative Package, a plan to help fix and head off property nuisances, she said.

“The idea is that we’re supporting Cleveland residents, revitalizing Cleveland’s neighborhoods with tools in the toolbox that we don’t currently have,” O’Toole said.

The legislative package amends about 23 sections of city code to:

  • Overhaul the city’s existing rental registration process.
  • Establish a local agent-in-charge requirement for rental properties.
  • Create a new vacant property registry.
  • Revamp code enforcement tools and add new tools to address nuisance conditions.
  • Revise existing city ordinances for clarity and continuity in enforcement among the city’s divisions.

“This will be a game changer for the city of Cleveland,” Joyce Pan Huang, director of the Cleveland City Planning Commission, said of the plan following Friday’s presentation.


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