2009-01-17 / Editorials & Letters

Writer wants to know what's going on in Thorn Township

Editor:

A few years ago, the residents of Thorn Township voted to clear the decks, and get open and honest government. It was a hope that remains unfulfilled.

Last year, I attempted to ascertain facts surrounding a rezoning request for a condo developer (The Condos at Heron Cove). After violating the Open Meeting laws, our zoning commission held a meeting that prohibited any questions or comments from the public. At the trustees meeting, I asked several questions about the surrounding property, as the radical changes proposed could only be allowed if all surrounding property was "platted". What followed began with a round-about "answer" that said that the Perry County Prosecutor's office "had not been asked" about the legal question regarding the term "platted". An Open Records requested revealed minutes of the Zoning Commission (4-28-08) that included "The Perry County Engineers have mentioned the Herbert property across the street is not platted (emphasis added)". This was never revealed in any public meeting (it would have stopped the development's in it's tracks); further, Trustee Tim Phipps told Beacon reporter Scott Rawdon the day after the trustee's meeting that he believed each surrounding property is platted (Beacon, August 2, 2008). Further, procedural irregularities (as a single example, the application to change to the requested final zoning was filed before the property was legally permitted to be changed) abounded, yet it passed! Finally, the builder began construction before the zoning was approved; the zoning inspector, Dale Factor, claimed to have somehow 'authorized' this illegal conduct, yet no sanctions were levied against him or the developer.

Now more "loose" or non-existent "enforcement" of zoning continues: a home on Township Road 1071 that was in foreclosure was purchased, split in two, partially razed then built out far in excess of our set-back requirements, and our Zoning Appeals chair informs me that the lot is now three 40' lots (!) all without any applications or permits.

The "Black Dog Island" developer (off Township 500) sought, and failed, to get zoning approval for a lot split and road to a bridge to the island. Now, his lawyer is trying an end run to get the Trustees; approval with out even notifying the appropriate zoning authorities. This was discovered by sheer luck in checking the township minutes.

Developers plow full steam ahead even if they have no state or federal permits in our Township because they know they have nothing to fear. Local resident Rick Lanthorn has tried for years to get Thorn Township to enforce it's height restrictions (against Heron Bay, which seems to have complete immunity from any and all zoning requirements) with no success. The only people who have zoning enforced (the new BZA Commission and Chair, Todd Brune, is a refreshing exception) against them are the average citizens - the so-called "little people".

I bought the issue of the Engineer's statement about "platting" to the attention of Trustee Tim Phipps months ago. I am unaware of any actions, let alone sanctions, whatsoever. I called Trustee Phipps on January 4, 2009, on behalf of the Honey Creek Homeowners Association, with specific questions about these areas, as well as with concerns about our sewer project, which was to have been completed per Court Order last fall, and is not. I'm still waiting for a return call. To be fair to Phipps, the Ohio EPA also has ignored an e-mail and call I made about another Perry County project that had been allegedly "stopped" (Snug Harbor, per Columbus Dispatch article). I was told by other EPA officials that Jeffrey Boyles still has control of this project.

Isn't it about time that residents of the area are given proper notice and information about projects by their elected officials, and that they also are responsive to inquiries from the public? Keep that in mind next time you head to the voting booth.

Pete Myer Thornville

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