Voters likely to get final word on rezoning decisions
MILLERSPORT - It looks like Walnut Township voters will have the final word on two controversial zoning changes.
Walnut Township Trustees unanimously approved the township's first I-2 district on May 6 for an approximately 66 acre tract owned by Jerry Mock on the west side of Ohio 37. The site is currently an I-1 district. Mock's son operates three businesses on the site.
Township officials acknowledge that they told Mock that I-1 zoning would cover his son's planned business activities. Now township officials have determined that I-2 zoning is actually required since the activities are not conducted inside buildings. The Mocks don't concede that point, but agree that the uses for their pending sale of two out-parcels would require I-2 zoning.
Trustees termed their approval of the zoning change as correcting a mistake made by township officials. Neighbors maintain that the Mocks have expanded their operations far beyond their original plans by adding concrete grinding, acceptance of construction and demolition debris (C&DD) waste and unloading/processing of C&DD waste. They are also concerned about a feasibility study being conducted for a possible C&DD landfill on the site.
Neighbor Ron Dipaolo, whose property borders the Mock's, coordinated the petition drive for a referendum on the Mock rezoning decision. He told The Beacon Tuesday that he expected to submit 240-260 signatures to township fiscal officer Pauline Ety on June 4. Dipaolo said he collected nearly 150 signatures himself, with only a couple of people refusing to sign his petitions.
A referendum petition on a zoning change in the unincorporated areas of the township requires the valid signatures of 158 voters living in the unincorporated areas. That means residents of the Villages of Millersport, Thurston and the small portion of Pleasantville in Walnut Township can not sign the petitions nor will they be able to vote if the issues are certified for the November ballot.
Neighbors are also circulating petitions to place the trustees' May 12, 2-1 vote to rezone approximately 289 acres owned by Licking-Fairfield Corporation from Rural Residential to I-2, on the November ballot. Trustee Wally Gabriel voted "no."
Licking-Fairfield owner Ed Parrish said he was solicited by Walnut Township Trustees for industrial zoning on this several years ago and again early this year. Parrish lives on the site which stretches east from Ohio 37 and across Millersport Road. Parrish has no specific development plans now and has emphasized several times that he is a farmer, not a developer. The corporation has owned property zoned industrial in Licking Township in Licking County for a number of years that has not been developed and is still farmed.
Neighbor John Harker is coordinating petitions for the referendum request on the Licking Fairfieldrezoning decision. Harker told The Beacon Tuesday, he has about 150 signatures in his possession and expects to have more than 300 as petitions are turned into him by the end of the week.
If the FairfieldCounty Board of Elections determines that each referendum request has at least 158 valid signatures, the zoning changes will be placed on hold until voters vote "yes" or "no" in November.