BALTIMORE- True to form, Liberty Township’s candidates for public office kept things lively during Monday night’s Liberty Township Meet the Candidates night at Liberty Union High School sponsored by Ohioans for Responsible Rural Development.
Resident Dempsey Ohlinger served as moderator. Most questions were for the Liberty Township Trustee candidates including incumbent Nancy Montell and hopefuls Betsy Alt, Randy Kemmerer, Bob Badgeley and former trustee Dave Keller. Trustee candidate William Putnam did not attend. James Hochradel represented the Baltimore Village Council and Shaun Hochradel represented the Liberty Union-Thurston School Board. They were the only candidates present from those bodies.
The first question went to James Hochradel.
Question: What is your plan for working with the trustees?
James Hochradel: “We’re already working together,” he said. The village makes its equipment and staff available to the township. The village also worked with the township to develop a disaster plan.
The next was specifically for the school board candidate.
Question: What are your views about the issue of growth?
Shaun Hochradel: “I’m for growth,” he said, but he’s not looking for all of it to come in at once. “It needs to be spaced out.”
Question: Will you support reinstatement of the combined township position of zoning inspector/ administrator?
Ohlinger said the question only addressed the position itself, not Tom Spring, who currently holds the position. However, it was difficult for trustee candidates to separate the two.
Montell: Yes, everyone has befitted from Spring’s expertise. “Without Mr. Spring, we wouldn’t have moved forward as fast,” she said.
Keller: “As an administrator, I’d let him go immediately,” he said. He believes the trustees can handle the administration aspect of his job. He’d keep him as zoning inspector, although he’d advise Spring to be more available to the public.
Badgeley: He’d retain Spring for both positions. “The board of directors does not do all the work for corporation,” he said, and a township is similar. He said Spring is very qualified and is an asset to the township.
Kemmerer: “Maybe,” he said. The township needs a good zoning inspector but he agrees that the trustees should handle the position’s administrative aspect.
Alt: If Violet Township doesn’t need a zoning administrator, than neither does Liberty, she said. The county offers free help to all its townships through its planning department. “We have hired, hired, and hired experts under this administration,” she said, adding that a land use plan is in progress but doesn’t yet officially exist.
Question: What do you think about managed growth?
Montell: “Without growth you die,” she said. But, the township needs appropriate growth and the township’s zoning resolution and land use plan will allow that to happen. “The zoning resolution is ready to roll.”
Keller: He’s opposed to Planned Unit Development (a form of denser development), which is still allowed under the new rules, he said. “There still needs to be some work done on the PUDs.” He believes PUDs are more appropriate for the village where there is public water and sewer.
Badgeley: Pickerington happened without managed growth. Liberty Township’s prime farmland should be protected; development is more appropriate for non-prime farmland areas. The township needs businesses.
Kemmerer: “We definitely need (managed growth),” he said. He favors a two-acre minimum lot size, as opposed to five acres so more land can be farmed. He does not favor cluster development. “There’s not a land use plan in place yet.”
Alt: “I can’t imagine anyone is in favor of un-managed growth,” she said.
Question: What is your five to ten year vision for Liberty Township?
Montell: “That it will remain as rural as possible,” she said. She wants to support the schools and have businesses where they belong according to a land use plan.
Keller: He wants to update the Elect
township’s meeting room and work hard toward securing government grants. He wants blacktop roads (not chip and seal), to use inheritance tax income for equipment, and a to do a better job maintaining cemeteries.
Badgeley: He wants to maintain the rural look, feel, attitude, and work ethic, to partner with the village and surrounding townships, and to build a cultural center.
Kemmerer: “The number one thing we need is leadership,” he said, adding he’s attended recent township meetings. “It’s a zoo.” He said he has more than 31 years experience working with townships. He said zoning laws need to be enforced and junk cars are becoming a problem.
Alt: She hopes the township’s look isn’t significantly altered within five to ten years. The township needs better financial leadership. “We paid $310,000 for a building you can see daylight through,” she said, adding that no one tried to negotiate a better price.
Question: There are only a few signs in the township that say zoning laws are strictly enforced. Why were the signs placed where they are and are they accurate?
Alt: Don’t remove the signs, but enforce the zoning. The signs should be on all township roads and they should mean what they say.
Kemmerer: There are only three of those signs and none is on a township road. Every township road should have a sign.
Badgeley: Zoning laws should be enforced and applied fairly. “We don’t enforce zoning fairly in Liberty Township.”
Keller: He said he was part of putting up the signs. They were placed on state roads so more people would see them. They are not within the state right-of-way. He said the township needs an available inspector who lives locally.
Montell: The township recently had an issue with Kicsi Lane residents, whereby the county wouldn’t recognize the name of the private road, but the residents wanted to keep the name. The trustees involved the residents with the solution and “it all worked out very well,” she said. Residents should be involved in zoning issues.
Question: How can we preserve the history and heritage of Liberty Township?
Kemmerer: “It’s going to take a lot of zoning,” he said. The best way to preserve land is turn it into a park. It can’t be resold or developed. “It’s that way forever.”
Badgeley: Beyond a museum, there is a farm trust that allows farmers to protect land for the future. Also, bring in businesses with a strong tax base to help farmers keep the land they have.
Keller: In the 1960s one could count ten cars per day in SR 158. “The population has increased tremendously in the last 50 years,” he said, adding that as long as people keep having kids and the township creates jobs, that won’t change. He said farmers could sell their development rights to maintain their properties’ rural nature.
Montell: Preserving the township’s history begins with maintaining the cemeteries. She suggested having the Boy Scouts help repair older cemeteries. “We’d like to repair one cemetery at a time.”
Alt: The township’s history is “near and dear” to her heart. The trustees haven’t touched $5,000 set aside to repair the cemeteries, she said, adding that the Baltimore Museum is a “wonderful resource.”
Question: What is your opinion of spot zoning?
Badgeley: He doesn’t like spot zoning, which is building a structure that is inappropriately zoned, such as building a residence in a commercial zone, or an improper use, such as a business in a residential zone. He said spot zoning won’t hold up in court. Areas need to be identified for appropriate uses. “Spot zoning is a bad thing,” he said.
Keller: Spot zoning isn’t ideal, but it’s out there. “You find a lot of home occupations going on in residential areas,” he said. It should be avoided.
Montell: “I’m definitely not in favor of spot zoning,” she said. It’s illegal and needs to be corrected where it exists.
Alt: “There’s spot zoning all over the township,” she said. Some “inappropriate” uses were already there when zoning was enacted. Spot zoning served a purpose at one time, but not any more.
Kemmerer: It’s not as prevalent as it used to be and the courts won’t allow it.
Question: Will you vote your conscious or represent the citizens?
Keller: He will represent the citizens, but won’t vote for anything that takes people’s rights away, even if it’s what some citizens want.
Montell: “It goes hand in hand,” she said. She’d stand behind the citizens unless they wanted to do something illegal. “It’s a balancing act.”
Alt: Every politician faces this question. You can only go by what the law allows and your conscious. If the majority disagreed with her but had a good reason, she’d be flexible.
Kemmerer: I’ll represent every one of you,” he said, not specific groups. He’ll take care of problems.
Badgeley: Assuming it’s legal, he’d vote with the majority of citizens. He’ll make sure he listens and responds to people. He suggested holding town hall meetings.
Question: What is the township budget and are receipts more than expenses?
Montell: The budget is always a struggle. Good plans and communication are keys to remaining in the black. She said the budget for roads is small and she’s concerned about trying blacktop township roads.
Alt: The annual budget is $700,000 to $900,000 and the trustees need to be careful. “That’s why we don’t need an administrator,” she said, adding that the township can’t count on inheritance tax income.
Kemmerer: He’d like to see at least half the township’s budget stored in CDs to accrue interest. It’s more expensive to blacktop roads, but they last longer than chip and seal roads.
Badgeley: He’s very conservative with spending and he’ll make sure the township works within its means.
Keller: The clerk would never let the township go bankrupt. Some years you won’t spend as much as you receive and other years you’ll spend more. It’s all a matter of keeping it in balance.
Candidates gave closing comments, except for James Hochradel who left for a council meeting.
Shaun Hochradel: He knows he seems young to some people, but he was appointed to the school board because of his passion and he helped to pass a recent school levy. He has great love for the community.
Montell: Future growth remains the key issue. Reasonable growth that retains the township’s rural nature must be promoted.
Keller: The township needs to get back to basics and be fiscally responsible. “We need to get back to things we used to do.”
Badgeley: He wants Liberty Township to be a great place to call home. As a businessperson he’s busy, but he’ll make the time to be an effective trustee.
Kemmerer: “We need leadership and experience,” he said. Walnut Township, where he works, attained millions in grants and he believes Liberty Township can do the same.
Alt: “You’ll know where you stand with me,” she said. She’s been a farmer and a teacher. “Anything this community’s asked me to do, I’ve tried to do to the best of my ability.”