Thursday, July 15, 2010

Continuance sought for kosher take-out pizza restaurant proposal in University Heights 

City Council has asked the owner of a proposed kosher take-out pizza restaurant to consider several different options if she wants the project approved.

Talia Gahanian and her business partner, Zahava Seltzer, both of University Heights, seek to operate Top It Off Pizza out of the Heights Jewish Center, 14270 Cedar Road.

A special permit is required, since the property is located in a U-2 multi-family district. June 9, the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals voted to deny the permit.

Gahanian and Seltzer appealed the BZA’s decision to council, and council was scheduled to hear the appeal Monday (July 19).

But the women, both Orthodox Jews, have asked for a continuance since July 19 is a Jewish holiday.

Police Chief Gary Stehlik and Deputy Police Chief James Rohal have expressed concerns about traffic flow and safety regarding the use of the Heights Jewish Center lot if the restaurant, which would offer curbside delivery, were to operate there.

The Heights Jewish Center is adjacent to Purvis Park, at Cedar and Wrenford roads, and the synagogue’s parking lot is used for access to the swimming pool, the tennis courts and the park.

Councilman Steve Bullock, who chairs council’s Safety Committee, said in a Committee of the Whole meeting Monday he had met with Gahanian and offered her these options:

• To provide delivery service only during the summer months, when the area is congested due to heavy use of the pool, tennis courts and picnic area;

• To consider a different location for the restaurant;

• To try to reconfigure the parking lot;

• To try to “do something else” if council upholds the BZA’s decision.

Councilman Frank Consolo offered a fifth option: allowing them to operate the restaurant from September through Memorial Day and keep track of how many cars they get and “what it’s like.”

“Before the year is up, we could re-evaluate it and then add conditions to it before the summer (of 2011),” Consolo said.

Bullock said council may be forcing the issue.

“It clearly would be an effort to put a square peg in a round hole,” he said. “Ideally, it would be much better if we could help (Gahanian) find another place in the city, which she would agree to if it works for her financially.”

Bullock added for council to overturn a BZA decision, it should have compelling reasons.

“I’m not sure how compelling this is,” he said.

The appeal would likely be heard at a special council meeting in August, yet to be scheduled. Council has no regular meetings in July or August.

At 7:30 p.m. July 26, council will have a special meeting to consider a proposed McDonald’s restaurant on Warrensville Center Road. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the project to council July 1.


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