(Plain Press, June 2015) At its May 11th meeting, the City of Cleveland Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) approved the variances requested by Woodland Inc (aka Ali Farai) for development of the Aragon Ballroom building at 3179 W. 25th Street.
In a 4 to 1 vote, BZA approved a motion by Board Member Ozell Dobbins that the appeal be approved with certain conditions. Conditions included: limiting the liquor license to one that would allow liquor to be served only until 1 a.m. 7 days a week; limiting occupancy to 800 guests; parking available at Lincoln West High School per agreement and at other locations along W. 25th in the future (within one quarter mile of the front door); free valet parking for all events with over 500 guests; the building will not be leased to a 3rd party operator; and closing hours will be at 1 a.m. on Sunday through Wednesday and 2:30 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday. Security will be provided for all events with more than 150 guests and for all events serving liquor. Security, both in and outside will be provided by Cleveland Police officers.
In testimony prior to the vote, the Stockyard Clark-Fulton Brooklyn Centre Development Office offered its support for the approval of the variances, while Tremont West Development Corporation, which represents the residents living on the streets directly behind the Aragon, voiced the concerns of residents about the liquor license, parking, noise, and hours of operation.
A number of residents also offered testimony which included a request that a traffic study be required to check the viability of the valet parking plan, concern about parking and traffic on nearby streets and they offered a proposal for earlier closing hours – midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends.
Ward 14 Councilman Brian Cummins noted the difficulty of securing parking leases in the area because of several pending development plans including the plans by MetroHealth, Lincoln West and the Cleveland Public Library. He noted that a number of parking lease options were in play and expressed confidence that leases would be signed prior to the opening of the facility at the end of this year.
BZA Board Member Mary Hass McGraw, who cast the lone no vote, expressed concern that the required number (roughly 290) of parking space had not been secured under five year leases prior to the meeting as normally required by BZA. She noted the parking lease with Lincoln West was for only 200 spaces and for three years with one-year renewal options subject to approval by the Board of Education.
Board Member Ozell Dobbins argued that the parking contracts could not be secured because of exceptional reasons. He argued that due to these exceptional circumstances the lack of parking contracts should not be allowed to hold up the development of a big project.