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Liberty Township salvage yard appeals denial

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP- The saga over a proposed salvage yard in Liberty Township continues as Richard Estep, owner of property at 145 Baltimore Somerset Road, has appealed a decision by the Liberty Township Board of Zoning Appeals, denying Estep permission to open a salvage yard on his property. The case will go before the Fifth Appellate District Court, probably in August.

To review, Estep, owner of Lancaster’s Estep’s Auto Service, proposed an automobile “recycling salvage” operation similar to U-Wrench It–a self-service used auto parts store familiar to Columbus residents–for his property. Although the property is zoned for Rural Residential use, Estep said that the property used to be a junkyard, and a salvage operation should be a grandfathered use. Previously, Julia Hilty of the Fairfield County Prosecutor’s officeagreed with Estep, saying that a salvage yard would be a grandfathered use.

April 18, 2007, the BZA ruled that Bernard Franks, who opened the original junkyard on the property, never applied for a variance per a zoning ordinance from 1960, so the junkyard was never a legal use. Technically, BZA members unanimously upheld an appeal submitted by the East Side Neighborhood Group–a citizens’ group that opposes the salvage yard. Dec. 15, FairfieldCounty Judge Richard E. Berens upheld the BZA’s decision not to grant the conditional use. Estep’s appeal challenges Berens’ decision.

Estep said Wednesday that he’s been issued his operator’s license and his vendor’s license. “We have cars there now, and I’m planning on selling parts,” he said. Estep added that he purchased three acres next to the property, on which he plans to build a house, eventually.

Estep was clear that he has no intentions of giving up his plans for a salvage yard and he’ll take the issue as far as he must. “I’m not stopping,” he said. Estep said he’s had no problems with any of his neighbors since he’s been working to clean up the property. “They can see I’m not hurting the area,” he said. “If I do anything, I want it to look nice.”

At this point, Liberty Township Trustee Tim Linkhorn said he intends to allow the situation to “play itself out” in court. Any action the township takes is likely to be appealed by either Estep or the East Side Neighborhood Group, which will just cost the township more money it doesn’t have. Estep’s attorney wants to meet with the township, said Linkhorn, but he’s not sure if that meeting will happen. “We can go to court or get the roads plowed,” he said. “There’s little we can do, really.”

Linkhorn commended Estep for cleaning up the property. “It looks better than it ever has,” he said. “It looks cleaner and neater.”

East Side Neighborhood Group representative Jim Reed could not be reached for comment by Beacon press time.

In other Liberty Township news:

• A Fairfield County Court hearing regarding Bob Richardson’s HydroMaster Seeding Company scheduled for Wednesday morning was continued to an unspecified date, as of Wednesday. HydroMaster is located in a residential zone, and he’s been fighting to keep his business on its current property. His company is located in a residential zone and his request for a conditional use was denied by the Liberty Township Board of Zoning Appeals March 6. December 2005, the Liberty Township Trustees approved zoning change for the Richardson property at 9550 Heimberger Road from Rural Residential zoning to B2, to bring the company in compliance with zoning. But, residents who opposed the rezoning circulated petitions to place final approval of the zoning in the hands of the voters, who overturned the trustees’ decision May 2, 2006.

Some opponents said that the property would be better served if the Richardsons were granted a conditional use, meaning that the property would return to Rural Residential zoning if HydroMaster ever closes or moves.

With this in mind, Richardson said the trustees placed a change in the township’s conditional use provisions–subject to approval by the BZA–to accommodate a landscaping business. Thinking that was all that was necessary, Richardson said he fully expected the BZA to approve his conditional use based on the trustees’ action. But, the BZA turned him down. His appeal of the BZA’s decision was scheduled for Wednesday morning in Fairfield County Court, but it was continued.

• BZA members will review the Roshon Estates PUD at the Township Hall Jan. 15, 7:30 p.m. The developers are asking for an extension of a zoning requirement that construction on the property begins within two years or the property reverts to its former zoning. The property has sat for nearly two years without construction activity.

• Linkhorn said that during an organizational trustees’ meeting Jan. 5, Trustee Ivan Ety was named trustee president, Trustee Nancy Montell was voted to the fireboard, and Linkhorn is the trustee representative to FairfieldCounty Regional Planning.

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