Council rejects lease extension for salon owner

Other agenda items approved

Kent City Council rejected a request last night to amend the occupancy requirement for tenants of the Summit Street Incubator program.

Michelle Cobbin, owner of Christian Edwards Hair Salon and member of the Summit Street Incubator program, asked to extend her participation in the program by two years.

The program leases city-owned property to entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses. The program was originally designed to last for five years, but after Cobbin addressed the council last year, the policy changed it to a maximum of six years.

“Another year, another five years – I just want things to be better,” a tearful Cobbin said, adding she preferred a two-year extension to “pick up the pieces and get over hardships.”

The leases given by the city cost less than other spaces in Kent, which allows business owners to focus less on finances and more on building a stronger presence.

“My first four years it was really tough building a clientele,” Cobbin said.

In the beginning, tenants usually pay $294 for rent, a fee that increases over time. Cobbin caught word that other tenants were paying significantly less than she was, so she requested extra years.

The council sympathized with her but also agreed that frequently changing the policy to appeal to personal problems was a bad decision for the program. They felt five years was a significant amount of time for businesses to be established and be able to move out on their own.

“You are either going to make it in five years, and if you don’t, then it might be time to move on,” said James Silver, Kent law director.

Cobbin has been looking to move her business to other areas of Kent but has not yet found a place she can afford.

The council suggested Dan Smith, Kent economic development director, work closer with Cobbin to help her find an affordable place.

During the finance committee meeting, council approved the following:

n Lease arrangement for the city’s bucket truck with the city of Aurora that will set guidelines to allow equipment in both cities to be leased.

n Applications for stimulus funds for fire operations. If awarded stimulus money, this could allow the city to hire four firefighters, reducing the amount of overtime hours.

n Water/sewer rate increases by 3 percent for 2010.

n Renewal of line of credit through Downtown Kent Corporation.

n Ohio Department of Natural Resources Cooperative Boating Grant.

At the special council meeting, City Council approved the following:

n A $292,150 grant from the Waterways Safety Fund for the development of a boating access improvement project.

n An ordinance to sort out funding for expenses this year and the first three months of the next fiscal year.

n An ordinance that defines the number of city employees for 2010, based on each position, title and work classification and designates from which fund each position will be paid for.

Contact public affairs reporters Leila Archer at [email protected] and Jeremy Hebebrand at [email protected]