Zoning Commission says ‘no’ to landfill
One week after a nearly twohour public hearing on Jerry and Barbara Mock’s request to rezone approximately 61 acres just west of Ohio 37 from I-1 (Light Industrial) to I-2 (General Industrial), Commission members unanimously agreed to not recommend that trustees approve the change. Commission member Roger Kilbarger did not take part in the vote. Alternate Allen Turnbow voted “no” with the remaining four regular members to make it unanimous. There was no discussion before the vote.
The Commission’s negative recommendation will be presented to township trustees who will have 30 days to schedule a public hearing on the application. Following the public hearing, trustees can immediately make their decision on whether to grant or deny the rezoning request or take up to 20 days to do so.
Next-door neighbors Ron and Irene DiPaolo thanked members for their decision. Several other neighbors haled the decision.
Two and half years ago, the Mocks won every round in the rezoning process – favorable recommendations from Regional Planning Commission staff, Regional Planning Commission and the Walnut Township Zoning Commission – and most importantly, unanimous approval by the trustees. So far this time, they are 1-2 with only the RPC staff supporting their request.
One key difference this time around is the public acknowledgment that a construction and demolition debris landfill will be built there if the zoning change is approved. It is the only remaining hurdle keeping the Mocks from building a 120-foot high landfill in two-acre increments that will eventually cover 34.8 acres. Two and a half years ago, the landfill was just mentioned in passing and then as the subject of a feasibility study. In late 2008, the Fairfield County Health Department issued a 2009 operating license to the Mocks for their Walnut C&DD, LLC. That license was renewed last year for 2010.
Landfill construction actually started this summer until Judge Richard E. Berens, on motions from Walnut Township and the DiPaolos, granted a Termporary Restraining Order on August 27, 2010, restraining the Mocks and Walnut C&DD from proceeding with construction. The TRO remains in effect until the Mocks’ appeal of Judge Berens’ April 26, 2010, decision enjoining Walnut Township from “issuing a Certificate of Zoning Clearance or other permit” based on its 2008 I-2 approval, is concluded
The Mocks aren’t relying exclusively on the trustees to once again approve I-2 zoning. A major part of their appeal to the Fifth District Court of Appeals is that state law preempts local zoning. They contend that since the Fairfield County Health Department and the Ohio EPA have approved their permit based on state laws and regulations, such approval preempts local zoning. They made the same claim at the trial level, but Judge Berens determined the claim wasn’t ripe at that time.
In other business Tuesday night, RPC Executive Director Holly Mattei outlined changes to the township’s zoning rules and map. Walnut Township contracted with the RPC staff to draft the changes.
Work began over two years ago in July 2008 with two organizational meetings. A first draft was completed in early 2009. After five drafts, the revisions were presented at a public open house in May. With “a few more tweaks,” according to Mattei, the new package was presented earlier this month to the RPC. On the same night that group recommended that the Mocks’ rezoning request be turned down, they recommended that trustees approve the new township zoning rules.
Part of the changes, Mattei explained, were simply organizational such as putting all the procedures in one place. Administrative procedures were also updated based on Ohio Revised Code changes.
Procedures were also updated for planned unit developments. Now the first step is a sketch plan which is sent to RPC and other appropriate departments like the health department for a preliminary review.
A new zoning district has been added. It’s a recreational mixed use district that allows specific businesses in the Buckeye Lake area like marinas and restaurants. Business activity in the new district is strictly limited. No property has been put in that district, but it is a new tool for the township, Mattei said.
The two industrial districts – I- 1 and I-2 – have been retained. I-1 will now allow for service industries for “uses under cover,” she said. I-2 is for the “more intense uses.” Wind energy regulations have also been added to the rules, but Mattei doubts much happens in the county due to its low wind generation potential.
Another important change, she explained, is setting specific criteria for conditional use permits for each district to help guide the Board of Zoning Appeals as they consider conditional use permits.
There were more questions than comments during the public comment part of the hearing. Ron DiPaolo asked whether metal fabrication would still be permitted in a I-1 district. Mattei said it would be, provided it is done inside a building.
Andy Wolfe asked about conditional uses. In the new rules, Mattei said, each district has specific permitted conditional uses in that district. Zoning inspector Ralph Reeb added that if you received a conditional use permit for a gas station you couldn’t use it to construct strip mall.
Wolfe is concerned about the 12 month limitation if the conditional use activity stops. If the stoppage exceeds 12 months, the conditional use permit is lost and the property reverts back to the limitations set by its district. Wolfe suggested extending that time to perhaps 24 months to cover those situations involving an estate or bankruptcy. He said it often takes more than 12 months to resolve those issues. Those changes would be up to the zoning commission or trustees, Mattei said.
“I think the zoning code will be much better,” Larry Neeley said. “I think we will see a lot of PUD’s in the future.” He went on to ask why the agricultural security areas aren’t shown on the zoning map. Commission chair Mike Wolfe said they only wanted permanent changes to go on the zoning map. Agricultural security zone designations only last for 10 years, he said. Neeley believes it is an important designation and it does limit the property owner’s options.
After a brief recess, commission members, without any discussion, unanimously recommended that trustees approve the revised zoning regulations and map as presented.
Reeb suggested that commission members cancel their November and December meetings, given their heavy meeting schedule this year. His suggestion was quickly accepted.