2009-11-14 / News

Council updated on building code office changes

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE- Building code enforcement and zoning will be big issues for the Village of Buckeye Lake with the new development expected to follow the completion of the village’s public water system.

Licking County Commissioner Doug Smith told the Buckeye Lake council members Monday night that the county is ready to help the village face the challenge. Commissioners plan to take over building code plan reviews, inspections and enforcement duties from the City of Newark, whose building code department ran into financial problems when construction almost stopped during the recent recession. The department shuts down next month. Buckeye Lake has used Newark’s office for its residential code enforcement. The State of Ohio handles commercial building codes.

“It’ll level the playing field,” said Smith, adding that once the county takes over, building fees will be “constant and consistent” throughout the county and its rates will resemble Newark’s charges before a recent increase. “We can do it more cost effectively than the City of Newark was doing it,” he said.

Smith said the county’s building code department would operate with four full-time people and “intermittent” code enforcers on an as-needed basis. He said several of Newark’s code enforcement agents are retiring and would be naturals for the intermittent positions.

Smith said Tuesday that Newark raised its rates to try to make up for the drop in permit and inspection fees. Newark tried to keep its staff in place, he said, hoping the drop in construction activity would quickly bounce back. But that hasn’t happened.

Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb said Newark’s code enforcement department is losing more than $1 million per year and is unsustainable.

Smith said Monday night that there are some “political issues” between the Newark department and some county municipalities that the change in control would solve, however he said Tuesday that any disagreements are more between individuals within the department and people out in the field, as opposed to friction between the department and entire municipalities.

Smith said Licking County’s townships would automatically fall under the county’s code enforcement, but municipalities can do it on their own. “We sincerely want you to join us in this endeavor,” Smith told council. “This won’t cost Buckeye Lake a penny,” but it would be expensive for the village to establish its own department. Smith said a state board must know how many municipalities are ready to join the county by Dec. 11. Commissioners hope to open the new county office Jan. 4, 2010. He said the new department will emphasize good customer service.

Director of Development Valerie Hans believes the village would be “crazy” not to use the county’s services and she prefers the village consult the county for residential and commercial building code enforcement. Right now the state is handling commercial building projects.

Hans said Newark gives the village consistent progress reports crucial to monitoring projects, but that doesn’t happen with the state. Also, “The state doesn’t know us from Adam,” said Hans, and she believes there’s an advantage to having the code review and enforcement done locally and by people familiar with the village.

“My hope is that council will approve both the residential and commercial,” said Mayor Frank Foster. “It makes no sense to me to have two different places to deal with.” He said it’s a good time to support the county’s efforts because the commissioners are handling a difficult situation and providing a critical service. “If it were not for their efforts we would likely be without any building code as we would not be able to afford our own department,” he said. “Their efforts and work on this as well as Newark’s assistance should be commended.”

In other council news:

• Council members did not choose someone to fill former council member Drew Bourne’s vacated council seat Monday night. Margaret Tobin, current council member Shelly Small, and Bourne’s son, Joshua, applied for the position. Council’s personnel committee planned to meet before Monday night’s council meeting to discuss the applicants, but the meeting was cancelled because it wasn’t advertised in time. Personnel committee members will meet at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 16, at the Village Offices to discuss the candidates. A special council meeting will follow to appoint a new member. Council members will also discuss and likely vote to join the county’s building code program during the special meeting.

• Foster said the Buckeye Lake Police Department secured a $25,000 grant toward purchasing computer equipment. He credited Capt. James Hanzey with finding and securing the grant.

• Foster said the village should compile a list of contractors capable of tying residents’ homes to the public water distribution system. However, “We will not be recommending any contractors whatsoever,” he said. It’s up to the residents whom to choose. Foster said Licking County has a list of contractors.

Foster said the public water distribution project is “moving ahead extremely well.” Most of the distribution lines are in place, the pump station is nearly complete, and water tower construction is going smoothly. Millersport’s pipeline from its water plant to Buckeye Lake’s distribution system is “well under construction.” Buckeye Lake will purchase bulk water from Millersport once the distribution system is complete.

Foster encouraged residents to attend a public meeting about the water system’s progress Tuesday, Nov. 24, 6 p.m., at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.

• Council President Charlene Hayden said it’s a critical time for the Buckeye Lake Planning Commission because member Judi Pyle resigned with scheduling conflicts and members Rick Baker and Clay Carroll will resign Dec. 31 when they become mayor and a council member, respectively, following the November election. Council will appoint someone to Pyle’s seat and the mayor will appoint people to the other two open seats. Interested people should apply to the Village Offices.

• Foster said the village tree commission would meet Monday, Nov. 23, 6:30 p.m. to discuss a proposed tree ordinance. “A couple of things will cause concerns,” he said, without being specific. He said one of the ordinance’s main goals is to stop site clearings, similar to what happened at the Landings at Maple Bay.

• Hans said Licking County has funds available to tear down abandoned houses at no expense to the village or property owner. If a home has been abandoned for 90 days, and determined to be “blighted” it could be eligible for demolition under Licking County’s NSP grant, said Warren Webber, Licking County Community Development manager. Buckeye Lake has not received any funding, he said; the funding is for property owners.

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