Thorn Township says frontage matters
THORNVILLE- Is 300 feet of road frontage too excessive? It depends upon whom you ask.
"It's obviously a hot topic," said Thorn Township Zoning Commission member Jocie Mc- Glothlin April 18. There's significantdebate among commission members and Thorn Township residents about the township's regulation requiring a property to have 300 feet of road frontage and at least 3.5 acres of land before a new house can be built upon it.
Some believe that the regulation helps to maintain the wide-open rural character of the township while others believe the regulation keeps property owners from being able to build on their properties in a reasonable manner. April 18, commission members debated the pros and cons of the regulation during their regularly scheduled meeting with plenty of residents in attendance.
"Why shouldn't we reduce it?" asked McGlothlin, who came to the conclusion after research that reducing the frontage to 200 feet and the lot size requirement to two acres would still promote agriculture and not leave the township vulnerable to developers. "We have to do the right thing for the community," she said.
"You're not going to make everyone happy," replied commission chair Ron White. "If you go down to 200 feet, when is it going to stop?" If the township reduces the requirement, he said, it will just be pressured to reduce it even further.
A couple residents in attendance said the requirement is excessive and the people who can afford Thorn Township property will likely maintain it.
Zoning Inspector Dale Factor said the township has the ability to create zoning districts, and said an option may be reducing the requirement in specific areas of the township as part of a township wide property use plan. "We have the ability to create more districts and still keep the rural atmosphere," he said.
McGlothlin said commission members need to think about the residents' needs to reduce frontage, not just base everything on the opinions of the commission. "Show the people of the community that we value their opinions," she said. "Why do we have to be so steadfast?"
"I see no reason to change at this time," said White, adding that the township has a zoning resolution in place and reiterated that once the township would reduce the requirement, it would be pressured to continue the reduction.
Resident Bud Roberts said, "Three hundred feet is a lot of road frontage. There's no reason why we couldn't have 200 feet."
Commission member Marci McCauley agreed with Factor that the concept of districts is worth exploring. She suggested leaving the requirement alone for the time being, but look into the districts.
"We need to make sure our minimum reflectsour purpose. Right now, it doesn't," said Mc- Glothlin.
Commission member Bob Kirkbride said Denison University students conducted a detailed study of Licking Township and concluded there needs to be more greenspace and bigger lot sizes. The EPA recommends the same, he said. Open space is part of the township's strategic plan and he's very in favor of keeping the township's. "I like open space; I like wildlife," and he likes the 300 feet requirement. When some residents in attendance bristled, he reminded them that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the issue, and he was only giving his opinion. The Denison University study can be accessed via the Internet at www.denison. edu/enviro/capstone/2005.pdf and a copy is available in the Thorn Township Office.
Commission member Jerry Nethers said that surrounding townships are increasing their frontage and lot size requirements.
After the meeting, resident Rick McCance, who led a campaign to abolish Thorn Township zoning last year and whose family was turned down by the Thorn Township Board of Zoning Appeals for a frontage variance, said, "Status quo for the zoning board. It's not what the people of the township want, it's what the people of the zoning board want."
McCance said that before the election in November, when there was a possibility that zoning may get voted out of the township, people wrote very informative and practical letters to The Beacon saying that the answer is not to get rid of zoning but to fixthe problems within zoning. "So, of course the zoning board said they wanted to start having more open and talkative meetings," he said. "They wanted to create hot topics to discuss at each meeting and if there were enough people who felt certain issues within zoning needed to be changed then the zoning board would act accordingly."
McCance said the people who attended the April 18 meeting wanted to change the road frontage requirement to 200 feet and the area requirement to two acres to 2.5 acres. He added that the township spent $17,000 to fight his family's frontage variance request.
BZA member Soup Dornan said previously that the BZA was following township zoning and the Ohio revised Code when it denied the McCance family's request for a variance.
Dornan said previously it's important that access to Mc- Cance's property is maintained by the township. Once all the homes McCance plans for the property are built, he said, there could be "23 to 25" people living there. If the access isn't properly maintained, emergency vehicles may have trouble reaching those people if there's a fireor medical emergency. "(McCance) doesn't want it to be a township road," said Dornan.