2008-05-17 / News

Two zoning decisions prompt referendum petitions

By Charles Prince

MILLERSPORT - It took Walnut Township Trustees just a couple of minutes early Monday morning to rezone 289 acres owned by Licking FairfieldCorporation from Rural Residential to I-2 General Industrial.

Larry Neeley, resident and the township's representative on regional planning commission, managed to get his voice heard by making a brief statement before the meeting opened with the Pledge of Allegiance. Neeley said he should have worn a "black shirt" to lament the loss of more farmland.

Liebs Island resident Steve Hall asked trustees if they were going to take public comments. The answer was "no," but Hall used the opening to present trustees with a petition signed by 30 Liebs Island residents opposing the change.

Trustee President Ralph Zollinger then moved to "go ahead and give Eddie (Licking FairfieldCorporation owner Ed Parrish) what he wants." Wally Gabriel seconded the motion. Sonny Dupler and Zollinger voted "yes," and Gabriel voted "no". Only one "yes" vote was required to affirmthe zoning commission's recommendation. The meeting was quickly adjourned at 8:05 a.m.

Opponents immediately announced plans to circulate referendum petitions to give voters the chance to approve or disapprove the township's first two I-2 districts. Trustees unanimously approved the first I-2 district on May 6. That district rezones an approximately 66 acre tract owned by Jerry Mock on the west side of Ohio 37 from I-1 to I-2. Three businesses, operated by his son, currently operate on the site. Two out-parcel sales are "in contract," which would bring a metal fabricator and a propane distribution business to the site. Negotiations to sell a third parcel to a seeding and tree service business are continuing. A feasibility study is also being conducted for a possible construction and demolition debris landfill on the tract.

Both zoning changes will become effective 30 days after the trustees' approval. That gives opponents 30 days to collect the signatures of registered voters residing in the unincorporated areas of the township numbering at least "eight per cent of the total vote cast for all candidates for governor" in the last election for governor. That number is 158 for Walnut Township. The clock started running May 6 on the Mock rezoning and on May 12 for Licking FairfieldCorporation. If the board of elections verifies that each petition has been signed by at least 158 registered voters, the question for approval or rejection will be placed on the November 4 general election ballot.

Walnut Township residents residing in the Villages of Millersport, Pleasantville and Thurston are not eligible to sign the petitions nor will they have an opportunity to vote on the issue in November if the petitions are successful.

Though two separate petitions are required, opponents plan to have volunteers circulate them together. Attorney John Harker, who lives on Ohio 79 east of Buckeye Lake, is coordinating the Licking Fairfieldpetition. Ron and Irene DePaulo, who live next to the Mock tract, are organizing the Mock petition.

Meanwhile, the township has posted a notice on the township hall front door that the Zoning Commission's regular monthly meeting set for Thursday, May 1 has been rescheduled to 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 22. The commission is meeting with Brooks Davis, executive director of the FairfieldCounty Regional Planning Commission, to discuss the township's zoning resolution (law).

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