2008-06-21 / Editorials & Letters

Landowner comments on zoning referendum effort


I would like to expand on my public comments now that the signatures have been collected for a possible referendum on the zoning change from RR to I-2 for Licking-FairfieldCorporation.

As owner of this property, I have no problem with voters making the final decision on this zoning change, provided all the legal requirements for a referendum have been met.

When Walnut Township officials asked us a couple of years ago if we would be interested in seeking a zoning change, our answer was "no, not at this time." We have been through such requests before. They are usually lengthy, time consuming, expensive and always controversial. The speculation that often accompanies them often is ridiculous. As a farmer and lifelong resident, none of this is fun for me.

In January of 2008, Walnut Township officials again asked if we would consider a rezoning request. After careful consideration of recent events in two nearby townships, we thought perhaps we should give the township an opportunity to set aside these 289 acres for future commercial use.

The result has been pretty much what was expected, but the public might not understand what is driving the core opposition. One family has lead the opposition and they are farming competitors. Farming is very competitive and we all compete for land and other opportunities that affect the value of our land.

Quality commercial development increases the value of adjacent property. So why would these people oppose an effort that would potentially increase the value of their own land? The answer is simple. I believe they are concerned that the change could give us a competitive advantage over what they could achieve.

Attorney John Harker, who coordinated the signature drive, greeted me with a hand shake and told me the night of our hearing before the Walnut Township Trustees that he was going to oppose our rezoning request. John went on to say, "If I owned your property, I would be doing exactly the same thing you are doing here tonight." Wow! How does he justify such statements?

We have reviewed the referendum petitions and found the signatures of many people we know. We have to ask ourselves what were they told to get them to sign? Were they aware of the personal nature of the core of the opposition? Did they really consider the future of our community and tax base? We have heard all the crazy speculation about all the negative businesses that could move in. Zoning is only the first requirement in a long list of regulations, many of them environmental, that would affect what type of commercial development comes here.

Maybe it would be a good time to take a closer look at what our community leaders had in mind when they came to us. Our trustees and zoning commission should be commended for their concern and actions to try to develop additional commercial tax base. According to the Beacon, our school board recently decided to borrow $3.2 million for needed capital improvements. The loan would be repaid over the next 25 years. So how is Walnut Township Local Schools going to pay back this money at the same time they are facing huge increases for fuel and utilities plus health insurance and wage increases?

I asked school board member Bobby Slater, what were you thinking about? He replied, "We did not think we could pass a bond issue so we borrowed the money and now it's an operating expense and the interest was only 4.4%."

That bill will have to be paid. Some or all of it could be paid by an expanded commercial tax base or we could just increase residential taxes. That apparently will be up to voters to decide in November.

My heart has always been in agriculture. I am not excited in the least about seeing our farm land or any farm land consumed by commercial use. Our 35 years of land ownership and farming certainly speaks for itself.

Kathy and I only agreed to allow Walnut Township to have the opportunity at their own request to set aside an area for potential commercial use at the designation they recommended.

If our community wants this land to remain agricultural, then we can move on with current and possibly other potential agricultural uses and not look back. That was our motivation and intention when we made the rezoning request. Ed and Kathy Parrish Walnut Township

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