Lincoln Heights Block Club responds to Tremont West Development Corporation’s actions concerning its bylaws
To the Editor:
(Plain Press, May 2019) Official response regarding the Tremont West Development Corporation (TWDC) Board Action suspending recognition of and providing support to the Lincoln Heights Block Club:
What is perplexing is that both the TWDC staff and Board cannot point to an aggrieved party that the Block Club has harmed. Baseless claims by a development group were explicitly made in written statements to the TWDC Board in 2018 stating our Inherent Property Rights clause “Is a policy steeped in the history of classism and racism in America.”
At no point in time since the existence of this developer’s complex has anyone besides himself (Josh Rosen) raised a concern at Block Club meetings. In the past five years while these large market rate apartment buildings have come online only five attendees living in them signed in on attendance sign in sheets thru April 2019 at the monthly meetings.
Our sign in sheets had 53 different persons qualified for membership sign in from January 2018 thru April 2019. We provided equal representation to everyone — business representatives, land owners, institutions, and all residents — both property owners and tenants.
What is very concerning is the Lincoln Heights bylaws were amended in December 2014. Why did TWDC wait to March 2018 to create a Board Resolution clarifying a “Commitment to Inclusivity”? Perhaps because during that a period of time the said developer was elected to serve as a Board Member of TWDC? In April of 2018, Mr. Rosen resigned his board seat claiming conflicts of interest either real or perceived. Could this be all about large future development projects? Development fees? Funding?
The TWDC letter is not accurate to the amount of service time between TWDC and Lincoln Heights. The Block Club was recognized by TWDC and services were provided for well over 25 years. Our Block Club changed its name from The Scranton – Starkweather Block Club to the Lincoln Heights Block Club when first enacting bylaws in April 2004.
The TWDC statement said it will still provide services to residents and stakeholders in our designated service area. Do you think the majority of our membership will be willing to contact them? This Board Action was meant to silence people from speaking collectively through their recognized block club and to take away our members rights of due process when it comes to zoning and planning matters. All while many of the property owners here are low income, retired, Hispanic or African Americans many of whom are having large difficulty since new development in Tremont has jacked up their property taxes 200% to 300% percent. Who protects their interests when they cannot afford to pay property taxes or from getting weekly letters from realtors, developers, and speculators eventually leading to foreclosures, land grabs, and further gentrification?
The TWDC Board is claiming that we are discriminating against members that do not own property. To be clear any resident living in our service area is automatically a block club member when they attend their first meeting and sign in. The sign in sheet does not ask if you are a property owner or tenant. All members have to meet attendance requirements prior to be granted voting status, similar to every block club in Tremont. What is a true Definition of “Democratic Process”?
Our By-laws provide a remedy to this matter if the membership felt this was a real issue. If this was an issue to tenants living in Sustainable’s buildings, simply all they would have to do is come in mass, attend three block club meetings, at the fourth meeting make a motion and second a motion to amend the By-laws in question. The question would go to vote at the following month’s meeting. If enough concerned parties attended, clearly the clause could and would be removed by a 67% affirmative vote.
The Lincoln Heights Block Club voted to amend the bylaws in December 2014. We made significant changes from the originating residential based club that first enacted bylaws in 2004. We were the first Block Club in Tremont to create bylaws. Almost every other Tremont Block Club used some of our language as a template to create their own regulations.
Our amendments in 2014 were passed unanimously and were meant to be inclusive. We studied the relevant City Codified Ordinances, State of Ohio Law, and the Cleveland Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) Rules and Regulations. Chapter 329.01(i) of the Cleveland Codified Ord., Chapter 713.12 of the Ohio Revised Code. Both state official notification is only made to “directly affected property owners or their agents”. Furthermore, when it comes to being notified by Cleveland City Council Committee structures on Neighborhood Planning changes, there are two very clear statements directly on the envelope “Important official notice to the property owner” and “Janitor or Tenant: Please forward without delay to owner.”
Those statements have legal meaning. The best statement was made after the April 2019 Block Club meeting, by a former officer, TWDC should work with the legislative branch of the City of Cleveland to amend the official notification procedures for BZA hearings, Planning notifications and Council Committees, if it was meant for any resident (property owner or tenant) to receive notice it needs to start at the City of Cleveland. If they change their notification policies and procedures, I am sure the Block Club would follow suit and do the same based on the City’s actions.
In review of each of the bylaws of other Tremont Block Club’s, you can pinpoint one or two statements to be possibly discriminatory. Why single out the Lincoln Heights Block Club, when we follow Board of Zoning Appeals rules and regulations?
We found this statement while researching caselaw: “The right of property is the guardian of every other right and to deprive the people of this, is in fact to deprive them of their liberty.” —Arthur Lee of Virginia, 1775Property rights are the substance of a free society. They are vital to our democracy, to our government, and to our freedom.
We again ask: To Whom are we discriminating against? We are the most diverse Block Club in Tremont. Below are our voting regulations.
Attached again are our full bylaws. (view online at http://www.plainpress.org)
See voting regulations below.
Henry P. Senyak
Chairperson Lincoln Heights Block Club
Lincoln Heights Block Club Voting Regulations:
- A) Voting in the Lincoln Heights Block Club is limited to the defined membership above who have attended three meetings in the prior twelve-month period of that specific block club meeting.
- B) Voting on inherent property rights, will be limited to membership that are owners of real property within the block club service area, which is defined as residential ownership or commercial ownership in adherence to subsection A. Inherent property rights generally require official notification from the City of Cleveland to property owners. (BZA, BBS, Planning Commission & Landmarks Commission agenda items)Lincoln Heights Bylaws Enacted 12-15-14