Committee Chair Mr. Hoefle opened the meeting at approximately 6:00 p.m. Members of the Committee in attendance were Mr. Evers, Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins and Mr. Hoefle. Present from Council were Ms. Vaughn and Council President D’Ambrosio. Ms. DePledge and Mr. Licht were absent and excused.
In attendance from the Administration were Mayor Morley, Law Director Klammer, Finance Director Slocum, City Engineer Gwydir and Tax Administrator Miller.
Also in attendance were members of the public.
New Enactment: Section 505.15 “Harboring of Bees; Abatement”
Mr. Hoefle: We started this discussion in July and tabled the item for further review. There are two different ordinance drafts – draft 1 was submitted by our Law Director and draft 2 is a sample ordinance I had drawn up upon doing research. Are there any questions from the Committee or Council?
Mr. Evers: To be frankly honest I see draft 2 being impossible for the City to enforce. The best incident I can give you is I am riding my bike down the street and get stung by a bee – I can file a complaint – a bee hive four houses down – how do we prove the bee came from that hive? We can’t. One thing I would like to bring to the Committee is the National Bee Organization has their own guidelines – maybe we can put language in the draft prepared by Mr. Klammer that the City will follow and enforce the guidelines of the National Bee Organization. That is simple.
Mr. Klammer: I do not know its regulations.
Mr. Hoefle: That would be considered in ORC Chapter 909.
Mr. Klammer: I specifically do not have any affection for either draft. This first draft is not necessarily mine. The Clerk and I were trying to figure out how to make it work by using some existing ordinances. The second one is more comprehensive. Whether we enforce it or not is a whole other story.
Ms. Vaughn: My concern is the enforcement portion. Draft 1 says the Director of Public Safety – that means the Police Department is involved with the bees. I am not sure they have the time or energy to be shepherding people with bees. The other one is so comprehensive we would probably have to have a Building Department person working on it and we do not have the people to do that. You know how I feel about bees. I love bees.
Mr. Hoefle: I agree with Ms. Vaughn with regards to the bees. In speaking with Mrs. Cendroski today draft 1 is a police driven by complaint because we do not actually have an ordinance the Building Department would follow. Draft 2, Section a (1) would have to change from Director of Public Safety to the CBO. My only concern was as far as nuisance conditions which appears in both drafts – upon a complaint being made they would notify the keeper of the honey bees that they would have to abate the nuisance and remove the hives – I don’t agree with this due to the fact that honey bees can travel anywhere from 2-5 miles from their hives. So, if I filed a complaint the way the ordinance is written the hives would have to be shut down. But we would not know where the bees came from – they could be coming from Willoughby or Willowick. The only reason I put the information I did in draft 2 was because I researched this and had a conversation with resident, Mr. Wilson, and spoke with Mr. Davis, the bee inspector. Also one of the partners at my law firm has several hives and he was able to provide a lot of information. The reason I included it in my draft was if someone next to me wants to have a beehive in their back yard and puts them along the fence line and I am cutting my grass or weed whacking I could easily disturb the hive. That is why I was suggesting we have them at least 5 feet away from the property line. Each hive could contain up to 30,000 bees. The reason for the 6 foot high barrier is so when they are coming out of the hive they are going up and starting their flight pattern at 6 feet.
Mr. Klammer: As far as the law goes I have no preference.
Mr. D’Ambrosio: I agree with Mr. Evers. Draft 2 is a little bit strict. What is it you want to add to draft 1 – change Director of Public Safety to CBO?
Mr. Hoefle: With draft 1 you would leave it Director of Public Safety. If we adopted draft 2 you would change it to CBO.
Mr. D’Ambrosio: I think there are some strict items in draft 2 – “There shall be no more than one beehive per 2,400 square feet of lot area.” What is a typical lot – 60 feet by 150 feet – that is 9,000 square feet? I don’t know if that is too small or too much of a restriction. As far as where the hives are facing – I don’t know anything about bees – couldn’t a bee come out the hive and go another way?
Mr. Hoefle: The information I have is pulled from people who have beehives and an ordinance like the City of Cleveland.
Mayor Morley: I think draft 2 is too tedious for us as a City to maintain. I am okay with draft 1. If there are a couple of things you would like to add - I don’t know if the direction the hives are facing matters.
Mr. Klammer: You could have only one beehive per 2,400 feet.
Mr. D’Ambrosio: Is that a lot?
Mr. Wilson, resident: Two hives would be the best. Without bees man could not exist. 60% of our crops are by polenization. They will not bother anyone. The guy cut my lawn right up to the hive with an electric mower and never bothered them. Most of the bees you see are bumble bees, hornets, wasps – not honey bees. There are honey bees in downtown Willoughby.
Mr. Klammer: I don’t know if there is a standard definition of beehive. The reason we had the first one was if it becomes a nuisance we can shut it down so even if it was 1 or 3 beehives on a lot depending on the circumstances and how well it is cared for and the surrounding properties it may constitute a nuisance.
Mayor Morley: Mr. D’Ambrosio and I attend the meeting with the bee expert from Lake County. Actually this week in the Lake County Journal there is an article from the Lake County bee inspector. From what I am told they have slides they put into a box. It is not that they can build one that will be as big as this room. It is a kit.
Mr. Wilson, resident: Some people have 5-8 in their yards with no problem. I would not go along with that but there are people who do who are not that far from here.
Mayor Morley: Bee season is over for this year. If there is something you want to add it does not have to be done today.
Mr. Hoefle: For the record the information I provided you for draft 2 – Mr. Davis, the bee inspector, reviewed the information and he had no issues other than if a complaint was filed – he asked how can we tell where the bees came from.
Mr. Slocum: What is the effect if you have a beehive as it relates to wasps and hornets – does it keep that population down or does it attract them?
Mr. Wilson, resident: They don’t let any of that in the hive. Every bee has its own job. If a bee dies in a hive they take it out.
Mr. Slocum: If you have a beehive in your yard would that decrease or increase wasps or hornets?
Mr. Wilson, resident: It would have no effect.
Mr. D’Ambrosio: I prefer draft 1. I think adding something like 3 feet off the property line would be reasonable. Maybe that would give a resident who has some concerns a little bit of ease – so it is not right up next to the property line. I think some of the other things in draft 2 are too much and would prevent people who want to have bees.
Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins: One of the items states “no Africanized bees shall be kept on any property.” Why would they do that anyhow?
Mr. Evers: Africanized bees are summed up as killer bees and cannot live in a cold environment. We want to keep that breed out.
Mr. Hoefle: This information was pulled from an ordinance from another city. It is open for discussion. We can pull things out and streamline it by adding some specifications from draft 2 into draft 1.
Mr. D’Ambrosio: I like the property line stipulation. Mayor, do you prefer Director of Public Safety or CBO?
Mayor Morley: Either way. I would have the police go check it out. Anyone we put in – we are not the experts. I would probably call the County.
Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins: Maybe it should be in the ordinance that if there is a problem we would call the County.
Mr. Evers: The issue with the whole thing is enforcement. Again, if I am riding my bike down the street and get stung by a bee and you have a bee hive how do I prove it? How do you prove it is a nuisance hive? You can’t.
Ms. Vaughn: How do you know if it is a honey bee, bumble bee, wasp or hornet?
Mr. Evers: Is this ordinance being driven by complaints or concerns?
Mayor Morley: What happened was with Mr. Wilson and a few others – he had a beehive and a neighbor complained and we just following the ordinance and said he had to remove it.
Mr. Evers: Can we simplify it again by putting in that the hive(s) will be kept by the standards of the National Bee Organization and the ORC? Does that simplify it enough?
Mr. D’Ambrosio: I think it does.
Mayor Morley: And we would get in contact with the County bee inspector.
Ms. Vaughn: We could include “before any action by the City the County aviary expert should be contacted.”
Mr. Wilson, resident: I have reached into the hives with my bar hands and never got stung. Most of the bees you see flying around are bumble bees, wasps and not a honey bee. They will not bother you just like if I don’t bother you then you will not bother me. If you mess with them like anything or anybody they will reach out.
Mr. Hoefle: Would the Committee recommend we work with draft 1 and make a few revisions as to the side and rear yard setbacks, follow the guidelines of the National Bee Organization…
Mayor Morley: And add that the Director of Public Safety or his designee contact the County aviary expert.
Mr. Hoefle: Once the County aviary expert investigates then he can make a determination whether or not it has to be removed. Shall we move this forward with minor changes?
Mr. Klammer: If you have the inspector come in and make a determination then we have to have an appeal process. I would just keep it as draft 1 – if it is a nuisance it is a nuisance and it has to go. We can declare it is a nuisance and if they don’t like it we can have a hearing. As far as setbacks we can use the set back requirements we have now for sheds and accessory buildings. I will find the code provision and work with the Clerk. It should solve the problem. I don’t think we need the State or County. I did not know there was such thing as a bee inspector. Even though we are talking about it I still don’t know if there is a bee inspector. I have no idea who pays him or his job or jurisdiction.
Mayor Morley: There is.
Mr. Klammer: But it is not for us to rely on him to come in and make a determination. If someone else wants to call him but as far as our ordinances go – we enforce them and decide them – if it is a nuisance it is a nuisance.
Ms. Vaughn: How many people is this impacting? How many people have beehives in the City?
Mr. Wilson, resident: There are quite a few.
Ms. Vaughn: Out of 6,000 homes there may be 3-6 hives. This does not have a major impact on the population of the City of Eastlake.
Mr. Klammer: If it was a nuisance we would shut them down – we would have heard about it.
Ms. Vaughn: Loud bars are a nuisance – we do not shut them down.
Mr. Wilson, resident: Eastlake is the only city around that does not allow bees. You can have them in downtown Cleveland.
Mr. Hoefle: We will go with the recommendation of the Law Director to use draft 1. It is always something we can look at during a later date if we have problems.
Mr. Klammer: I will figure out the set back requirements and let the Clerk know.
There were no objections to move forward with draft 1 pending revisions.
There were no further questions or comments.
Amendment: Section 1145.02 (a) (1) “Schedule of Permitted Buildings and Uses
Mr. Hoefle: The only issue with this is to delete the word bees.
There were no further questions or comments.
Amendment: Section 183.1901 “Credit for Tax Paid to Other Municipality”
Mr. Hoefle: Mr. Slocum?
Mr. Slocum: I asked our Tax Administrator Mr. Miller to join us. I want you to understand some of the things that are going on within the Tax Department. I think you have been
reading about Euclid getting aggressive by sending out notices to people who have not filed. We have been doing that all year. Mr. Miller has been very aggressive and is trying to get people to pay and file returns and if they don’t file returns and are delinquent to collect the penalty. We are asking to give Mr. Miller another bullet that he can operate with. Currently the ordinance says that if someone fails to file a return that we can have the ability to say that person loses reciprocity. It is one of the ways to get people to file their return. He has run into another problem. Not only are they failing to file and he can bring them to the table to file a return but they say they are not going to pay and we cannot enforce it because that is not in the ordinance.
Mr. D’Ambrosio: So, they are filing a return and not paying.
Mr. Slocum: Right now we do not have the ability to make them pay. We are looking for – if we get them to the table to file the return that they have to pay whatever is due and if they don’t then we have the additional bullet to say they will lose reciprocity because they refuse to pay. This is happening before he actually has to take the people to Court to collect. We are trying to do things to prevent Court filings and to enhance our collections.
Mr. Miller: Let’s say an individual has not filed for five years and they were working in Willoughby all five years but fail to provide documentation. I have tried every effort on my end to get them to come in and file and then send them to Weiner and Associates and they show they have paid the taxes typically I give them the credit.
Ms. Vaughn: But you still have to pay the Court costs and to Weiner and Associates.
Mr. Miller: I include estimates as Euclid is doing. Euclid is throwing $100,000 in tax out there - $100 late filing fee, $500 in penalty and interest. They are at $2.85% so more people will owe taxes because not many of the surrounding cities are more than 2%. If they come in I can say they do not owe any taxes and all I can pull is the late filing fee which ultimately does not make it worth my time or Weiner’s time. My suggestion is – I have a 60 day process – a 30-day letter, a 15-day warning and a 15-day final. On the final letter I can add in something per this new ordinance saying that if they do not comply by this date you will lose all reciprocity if it goes to our legal collection agency. Once it goes there it does not matter what is on the W-2 that says they paid $2,000 to Willoughby because they are now due that $2,000 to Eastlake. My argument is why should people who neglect to file be given the credit that people file all the time with? I can be lenient and only do one or two years – it depends. I know every situation is different and I have to take that into consideration. But, I don’t have the teeth. If they come in and file all these tax years and I show them they filed all the taxes ultimately I am saying instead of owing $5,000 they only owe us $500. That is a huge reduction – and the amount of time I put into it but Weiner as well – where do you go?
Mr. Slocum: Again with Weiner – the only money that is paid to Weiner is when they actually collect their fee from our tax payer and after they collect our taxes. Although we show it as an expense it is really not an expense to the City. We are getting the revenue to pay for it. We are adding that it requires us to do what we are already doing but now it requires us by ordinance to provide the written notification which we are fine with. We don’t want anyone coming in and saying they were blindsided.
Mr. Miller: I had someone visit me today and they had been with Weiner and Associates for over a year but they are now getting garnished. They came in and filed their two tax years that were outstanding. They owe nothing. We have a $2,000 balance on them. They owe nothing and are getting garnished. They owe $150 late filing fees but they owed practically nothing compared to the $1,900 balance. That is because of the reciprocity. We got a judgment. They never came to the table to prove they did not owe. But now they come in and file and I can see clear as day if I had helped them a year ago they would have received full reciprocity and owned $150. Now a year later they owe $1,900 and will get garnished. With the teeth in the new say of saying this on the final statement I won’t fee as bad saying – you had your chance. If I give them the same 60 day opportunity to come in and take care of it I will be more than happy to give them the reciprocity but I think once it crosses that threshold – as soon as it goes to legal.
Mr. Slocum: We will fully disclose to the people up front so they have time to address it.
Ms. Vaughn: Can they get the reciprocity back?
Mr. Slocum: Yes.
Mr. Miller: This is just for past due taxes.
Ms. Vaughn: It read to me like – you are a bad boy – no more reciprocity ever.
Mr. Miller: It is just for the people who really take advantage of the system.
Mayor Morley: I was surprised of the number of people who have not filed for 5 or 6 years. We had one letter complaining but I did not ask why they had not paid for the last 6 years.
Mr. Miller: Their mentality is they don’t owe anything because they work in a 2% City. My mentality knows that they may have had that job but how would I know if they did not have a Schedule C which would have been self employment income, how do I know they did not have a rental income – things of that nature – lottery winnings. I won’t know until they file so I cannot assume they get full credit because they did not file. I always mention the things that could be taxable.
Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins: You said you would decide how many years of reciprocity you would take or give?
Mr. Slocum: If he finds someone who has not filed for 5 years and sends them a notice that says they need to file today and pay the taxes and if they say no he will give them a notice that says if they don’t we will forfeit the reciprocity. That is the only time we are doing it. It is not a first step – it is a last step.
Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins: I understand that. But I think you said at some point you would make a decision about how many years depending on their story.
Mr. Miller: For someone making $25,000 per year – that is $100,000 over five years and $2,500 in just tax alone. If they are making $25,000 every year I know they are not making a lot of money. They are at a plateau and happy there and will not be making a lot more money. I have to take that into determination. How long will it take us to collect that money? Maybe I will broker a deal and give them credit for 3 of the 5 years if they can pay a lump sum right now. But, at least it gives me something to collect rather than just late filing fees of $100 or something of that nature.
Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins: So it would be written in the ordinance that you could negotiate a settlement.
Mr. Miller: I do not think it is written in the ordinance but …
Mr. Klammer: We have to look at it – something that gives you the authority to waive fees.
Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins: I think that has to be written in there.
Mr. Miller: There are times that I look at the situation and make the determination if someone is with Weiner and Associates and owes $3,000 and they have $2,200 here and now – and just be done with it. It is hard to say no to something like that because if you put them on a 12 or 24 month payment plan you will not see the money for a long time. It will be trickling in and with the time and effort sometimes you have to take a loss and take the majority of what you can get. Every situation is different and has its own merits. I put people on payment plans and I tell them with Christmas and a family if they can’t make the $80 to come in and pay $50 – just come in and talk. I would rather have them come in and communicate with me than anything else.
Mr. D’Ambrosio: That is a good way to run your Department.
Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins: I know we do not tax pensions and disability payments. Those people also still need to fill out the form and file. How would we handle them?
Mr. Slocum: Those monies are not subject to reciprocity.
Mr. Klammer: If they did have some income someplace else that would be a reciprocity issue.
Mr. Slocum: This does not create a new tax on income that is otherwise non-taxable.
Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins: Would the people on pensions or disabilities be penalized if they did not fill out their forms?
Mr. Miller: We won’t charge them anything. We just ask that they file. We say we are a thorn in their side and if they ever win the lottery to think of us first. If you go to a casino and they take the taxes out there the money does not go to the home city where it should go – it goes to Cleveland or Northfield. I have sent out letters and been successful at times where residents have gone to the casino and asked for a refund because the taxes belong to their City. It should go to the home city they reside in. It is not earned income in that city. I have a letter that details everything and provides 60 days to resolve the refund.
Mr. D’Ambrosio: We will do this on a yearly basis – if someone did not pay in 2013 once this ordinance passes we will send out the letters. We are not going to wait for them to be behind 2 or 3 years?
Mr. Slocum: We are already sending out letters today. He has the right to do this.
Mr. Miller: I thought that was a little too bold and wanted you on board with it. People will say they are being double taxes but they were never in compliance with our ordinances.
Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins: The double taxing is their penalty.
Mr. Miller: It is not really a double tax – it is a penalty for not filing on time. Why should the people who file on time and never owe any tax be given the same credit as someone who fails to do such a thing. Why should you wait five years and just pay $300 when we spent all this time going after them. Why should they get the same credit as someone who files religiously?
Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins: I agree. It is justified to penalize people for that. I am not convinced that losing 100% of their reciprocity is quite the way – maybe half the reciprocity. But to lose the full reciprocity is a heavy penalty.
Mr. Evers: I don’t. They had every opportunity to come in and pay it. They have been sent a letter and now it is in legal? Shame on you – not shame on us.
Mr. Slocum: The idea is not to generate a lot of income from forfeiting reciprocity. That is not what we are trying to do. We are trying to get a bullet so he can collect the money that is due the City up front and on time. We are looking to put that sword above their head – pay us – it is not like – “Oh, gee, I really don’t owe any tax” – now you are going to owe tax. This already exists within the ordinance. The only thing we are really doing is adding something to us – a requirement of a notice which we are comfortable with and we are adding the one condition for non-payment.
Mr. Miller: It is not so much a penalization it is more of a deterrent. This will make people want to file more than anything else. I sent out about 300 letters this summer with the warning notice of 15 days and a final notice of 15 days.
Mr. Klammer: It already exists and Mr. Miller may be able to do this already. Something made him uncomfortable and we talked about it and that is why what is written here. But technically he may already have that right now. So, if anyone would question you on it the ordinance is almost identical to what he is proposing now.
Mr. Miller: All it is saying is on the final notice there is something in writing saying that failure to come in and file the taxes by this date means you will forfeit your reciprocity for the tax years in question.
Mr. Klammer: It is really almost identical to what is there now.
Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins: In your letters do you define what reciprocity is – do they have full understanding of what they are facing?
Mr. Miller: Right now I do not. The reason is because there is no real need for it because I was not enforcing the ordinance.
Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins: Do they ask you what reciprocity is? Do you get calls like that?
Mr. Slocum: Right now he has not been enforcing this. He is looking to start enforcing it with what is currently in it and before we do that we wanted to make sure people are aware of what we are doing in the Tax Department. We totally agree if we are going to send out a notice people will understand what we are doing.
Mr. Klammer: The ordinance says you will get a credit for your underpayment.
Mr. Slocum: We will ensure the notice is explanatory.
Mr. Miller: I do get people that call me and ask how they owe taxes because they worked in Willoughby or Mentor and I advise that is why they need to come in an bring the taxes so I can see that. We need to plug the numbers in and may sure they did pay their taxes to the other municipality. Without having that W-2 or proper documentation I am at a loss and cannot help them.
Upon review, the Committee agreed to move this matter forward to the next regular Council meeting,
There were no further questions or comments.
RECOGNITION OF PUBLIC
There was no one who wished to speak.
The meeting was adjourned at 6:44 p.m.