2008-08-16 / Editorials & Letters

Walnut Township officials failed to protect residents

Editor:

We are writing to thank all the people who helped with the referendum petition on the Micro (Mock) property. The support we received from the people who signed the petitions was tremendous. Special thanks go to everyone who helped circulate the petitions. Your help made it so much easier.

It's wonderful to see that Walnut Township has so many good people who truly care about what happens in their neighborhoods. We would also like to thank Charles Prince and the Buckeye Lake Beacon for the excellent coverage of the Walnut Township issues.

In February 2008, we met with Walnut Township Zoning Inspector Ralph Reeb concerning the Mock's I-2 rezoning request. Reeb told us that he made a mistake by allowing the Mocks to operate an I-2 (general industry) business on property that was zoned for I-1 (light industry). Reeb also told us that the Mocks could put a construction and demolition debris landfill on the property. He added that there was nothing he could do about it, and if he didn't give them the I-2 zoning, the township could be taken to court and there was no chance of winning.

Along with our neighbors, we attended the zoning commission and trustee meetings, and watched as the vote went unanimously in favor of the Mocks. The brief three minutes that the township allowed each person to speak was not enough time for anyone to state a case against the rezoning. Even though the Mocks were given unlimited time to speak, we were not allowed time to protect our homes and property values. It seemed as if the township was not interested in anything we had to say.

Our next step was to try to put a referendum on the November ballot so the residents of the township could vote on whether or not they wanted to allow the zoning. We researched the available information on how to properly circulate petitions and we believed we did everything correctly. After we filed the petitions, the Mocks filed a protest against them.

As you probably know, the petitions were rejected because one of the maps we used was incorrect. Ironically, the incorrect map was the same one that the township office sent to all the neighboring property owners, notifying them of the zoning meeting, and describing the Mock property that was to be rezoned. The zoning resolution that the trustees signed was also incorrect. It stated that the Mocks rezoned a total of 99.54 acres, when they actually rezoned 65.90 acres. The Board of Elections felt that the map we circulated was misleading to the public, even though it was the same map, and marked in the same way as the map sent out by the township office to describe the Mock property before the township zoning meeting took place. Apparently, it doesn't matter that the township used an incorrect map for the zoning and included the wrong amount of acreage in the zoning resolution. That is a scary thought.

At this point, we are not sure what steps we will take. If the Mocks continue with their plan to build a construction and demolition debris landfill on the site, we will do our best to fight it. Before the Mocks can start their C&DD landfill, the EPA will hold a hearing. Please keep watching the Beacon for any hearing announcement.

We urge everyone in Walnut Township, Liberty Township, and all the area villages to attend. We need to let the EPA and the Mocks know that we are concerned about the water quality in the aquifer beneath the Mock's property. This aquifer supplies nearby water wells and Baltimore with drinking water. We also need to let them know we are concerned about our property values, odors and noise, and the visual impact of a C&DD landfill.

Hopefully the Mocks will understand that the people of Walnut Township do not want a C&DD landfill or other businesses that are noisy, dusty, potentially hazardous, or disruptive to the residents already living here. Hopefully, they will develop their property in a manner that is thoughtful and considerate to their neighbors. By responsibly developing their land, the Mocks can help to attract clean businesses and industry that will improve property values and provide good jobs. That would be a much better legacy than a C&DD landfill.

One again, thanks to everyone who helped us with the referendum petitions. We are very disappointed that they were rejected. We are also very sorry that the township zoning inspector, zoning commission, and trustees let this matter go as far as it did. When they corrected their mistakes, they turned their backs on us, unwilling to offer any help and support to the township residents who trusted them to protect the township and everyone who lives in it.

Ron and Irene DiPaolo Walnut Township

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