2007-06-09 / News

Union Township Trustees zone out

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON- Matt Harmon feels deceived. He wants to rezone 13 acres of property within Union Township from agricultural use to medium-low density residential, or R-2 zoning - which accommodates two to three-acre lots--and split two, two-acre to three-acre lots from his property.

He told the Union Township Trustees Monday night that he was advised by Licking County Planning staff to ask for an R-2 zoning, only to have his application rejected by the Licking County Planning Commission March 26, the Union Township Zoning Board April 17, and then the trustees Monday night.

Harmon said he learned that had he applied for R-1 zoning, which requires four-acre lots, his application likely would have been approved. Harmon plans to reapply for R-1 zoning, but he wanted trustees to know that he is unhappy being required to go through the whole application process again and pay hundreds of dollars in fees when people at the county level advised him to apply for R-2 zoning.

The trustees upheld the zoning board's decision and unanimously denied Harmon's request for R-2. "There's all sorts of road frontage issues there," said Trustee Jack Justice after the meeting. "R-2 just didn't fitthere."

According to the minutes of Union Township Zoning Board's April 17 hearing, Harmon said he plans to build a new home on his property, which he will eventually sell to build a larger home elsewhere on his property. Harmon also hopes to deed two acres at the front the property to his brother, Scott, so he can build a home there as well. Scott currently owns acreage in the middle of the property.

Matt Harmon said at the April 17 meeting that he realized his land doesn't have to be zoned R-2 to build the first new home, but rezoning to R-2 immediately would give him the option of building the second home when he's ready. He wanted to complete the zoning process now, rather than later. According to the minutes, Harmon would also need a road frontage variance in the future if he decides to split off three-acre lots.

Zoning board member Ralph Jutte asked Harmon if he could split four-acre lots in the future instead of smaller lots. Harmon said yes, and that he prefers four acres. Jutte asked if he understood the differences in zoning requirements. Harmon said he thought road frontage was an issue (he doesn't have enough to meet zoning requirements and would need variance, even under R-1 zoning).

Zoning Inspector Paula Greene said she explained the difference to Harmon. She said she also explained to Harmon that the township has R-1 zoning (four-acre minimum lots) to help assure the local water table isn't excessively pumped.

Harmon said he'd agree to R-1 zoning. Jutte asked zoning board chairman Steve Rees if Harmon could change his request to R-1 since he already applied for R-2. Rees said the application could not be changed because each application must go through the process of advertisement, a zoning board hearing, etc.

Greene said the planning commission would have supported rezoning to R-1, but not R-2, and planning commission members believe R-1 zoning is closer to Union Township's zoning requirements. Licking County Planning Commission members stated they would support R-1 in a report. Rees reminded Harmon that he would still have apply for a road frontage variance in R-1 or R-2. The Union Township Zoning Board denied Harmon's R-2 request.

Fast forward to the trustees' meeting Monday night, where Harmon and his brother, Scott, were present to ask the trustees if they could do anything about the situation and to express their dissatisfaction with the process. Matt Harmon wasn't happy to be paying another $500 application fee to try for R-1 zoning. He said the water table is six feet deep on his property. Justice said after the meeting that unless Harmon had a spring on his property, he didn't think the local water table was that close to the surface.

Trustee President John Slater said Monday night that the purpose of R-1 is to avoid problems by building many homes on smaller lots.

"The township doesn't approve R-2," said Matt Harmon.

"If they would've told us to go R-1, we would've done that," said Scott Harmon. "This is costing us thousands of dollars."

Slater said he understood their frustration, but the trustees ultimately backed the zoning board's decision.

Harmon said he would probably pursue the R-1 despite the fees.

"It would've saved a lot of grief if R-2 wasn't recommended," said Scott Harmon.

In other township news:

+ Resident Ed Parrish told the trustees Monday night that he'd volunteer to remove a crumbling concrete bridge at Buckeye Park Avenue, a small rural road. "The bridge, in my personal view, has very little purpose," he said. And, he believes it's a safety hazard. Only flood waters flowbeneath it and a pair of pipes covered with gravel, dirt, and asphalt would accommodate the flow. Parrish, a farmer, said he has an excavator in the area and could dismantle the old bridge fairly quickly. "The hazard of the concrete structure is gone at that point," he said. "It's just a goodwill gesture."

Justice said this would be a good week for the township crews to help Parrish. The township will resurface that section of road and bring it up to its proper elevation after Parrish removes the old bridge and disposes of the concrete.

+ The trustees asked Parrish what they can do about single strand fencing that surrounds Parrish's property. Parrish, like many farmers, places the single strand fencing around his fields in an attempt to keep people from driving pick-up trucks onto his property. "I get fiveto 10 run-throughs a year," said Parrish. "They usually have to be towed out."

Unfortunately, said Justice, when the run-throughs occur, the strand of fencing wire is broken loose and has become caught in the township's mowers' blades, which is a "real nightmare" for the township employees to repair. Parrish said township employees can wrap up the loose fencing and hang it over a fence post if they ever findloose fence wire.

Slater asked Greene, who was attending Monday night's meeting and is also the township's police chief, to record the names of people who drive through the fencing when possible so the violator can reimburse Parrish, or whomever owns the damaged fence.

"We normally do," replied Greene.

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