2007-04-07 / News

Liberty Township might sell township hall

By Scott Rawdon

BALTIMORE- Li b e r t y Township Trustees discussed the possibility of selling the Liberty Township Hall during their regular meeting Monday night, although it's currently unknown where the trustees would meet, should the building be sold. Public meetings are held at the township hall.

"That has yet to be determined," said Trustee Nancy Montell, Tuesday. She said the township owns three parcels of land--the township hall in Baltimore, a township garage and offices at 2060 Baltimore-Reynoldsburg Road, and a storage facility across the street from the 2060 property. "My thought is, why do we own this much land?" said Montell, who believes it's time to look at how the trustees can benefit the township by cutting back on expenditures. She assured that the township would make accommodations for the township meetings before the current township hall would be sold.

"We don't really know if we can or not," said Trustee Tim Linkhorn, adding that there's some question as to the holder of the building's deed. "Eventually, we'll sell that building," he said. "But, that's down the road." The township would need to create a new meeting place, possibly at the 2060 building, he said, before the current township hall could be sold.

"We haven't got any place to go," said Trustee Ivan Ety, who didn't appear to share his fellow trustees' enthusiasm for placing the township hall on the market. He mentioned during Monday night's meeting that the firedepartment may still hold the deed to the building.

Zoning Administrator Tom Spring said he'd look into the matter.

In other township news: + The Liberty Township Board of Zoning Appeals' hearing regarding Richard Estep's proposed salvage yard at 145 Baltimore Somerset Road is rescheduled for Wednesday, April 18, 7:30 p.m. at the Liberty Union High School cafeteria. The appeals hearing was previously continued to March 20 from Feb. 27 after Estep and his lawyer agreed they needed more time to review the appeal. A sizable crowd gathered at Liberty Union Middle School Feb. 27 to hear the East Side Neighborhood Group - a citizens' group created to oppose the salvage yard - appeal a county prosecutor's statement that there were no zoning violations on the salvage yard's property. The citizens' group strongly opposes the salvage yard.

To review, Bremen resident Estep, owner of Lancaster's Estep's Auto Service, proposed an automobile "recycling salvage" operation for the property. Although the property is zoned for Rural Residential use, Estep said that the property used to be a junkyard, and a salvage operation should be a grandfathered use. Last year, Julia Hilty of the FairfieldCounty Prosecutor's office agreed with Estep, saying that a salvage yard would be a grandfathered use.

Feb. 27, Estep said he received no notice of what the appeal was actually about. His lawyer, T. Michael Christian, said he and his client were at a "distinct disadvantage," adding that he believed it was impossible to defend Estep's interests without further review of the appeal.

Attorney Mike Shannon, representing the East Side Neighborhood Group, said the process would be "tainted" if the Feb. 27 BZA hearing moved forward. Shortly before the March 20 hearing, Shannon requested a continuance.

+ Monday night Linkhorn said Shannon requested all public documents relating to Estep's case, and requested them by April 4. Shannon is entitled to all the documentation under the Sunshine Laws, but Linkhorn though the request was short notice, particularly since the township has no full time staff. "Our records are open. They're welcome to look at anything," he said. But he thought Shannon should send someone from his office to do the work. Montell offered her assistance, if necessary.

+ Ety objected to a resolution to approve an updated version of the township's employee handbook. The reason, he said, is because Hilty sent the trustees a letter asking them to delay approval. "She wanted us to hold off approving it," he said. The county is working on its own employee handbook, which Ety believes the prosecutor's officewill want all FairfieldCounty townships to adopt for the sake of consistency.

+ Linkhorn and Montell approved appointing resident Barbara Sellers, a retired federal judge, as an alternate member of the township zoning commission. Ety nominated former trustee Dave Keller, but was outvoted. "Barbara Sellers' name came out of the clear blue sky at a (previous) meeting," said Ety, adding that he didn't feel comfortable appointing a person he'd never met.

Linkhorn said he didn't know Sellers personally, but he wanted a cross-section of people to serve on the zoning commission. He thought a retired federal judge could provide legal advice.

+ HydroMaster Seeding Co. owner Bob Richardson remains undecided about the fate of his business. The 12 year old HydroMaster company is operating in a residential zone. Richardson's request for a conditional use to maintain operation of his business within the residential zone was denied by the Liberty Township Board of Zoning Appeals March 6 and, if Richardson doesn't challenge the BZA's decision in Fairfield County Common Pleas Court, he will be required to relocate his business or shut it down.

As of Wednesday, Richardson said he hadn't received notice from the township requiring him to shut down his business. He said Walnut Township officials have welcomed HydroMaster into their township, if Richardson chooses to relocate. He was clear that he's tried to work with current and former Liberty Township trustees to bring his business into compliance, but hasn't met with success. "They're the trustees and they can make things happen," he said. Richardson said his neighbor also operates a business with white trucks similar to his and he continues to wonder why HydroMaster is being singled out to be shut down or relocated. "It's a shame we can't all live

and let live, and all get along," he said.

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