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New fire/EMS levy request cut in half

JACKSONTOWN – Licking Township voters will be asked to approve a new three mill levy for fire and EMS services on the November 4 ballot.

Trustees cut Fire Chief Mike Wilson’s original request for an additional six mill levy in half at a special meeting August 11. Wilson asked for six mills to have a paid four-person crew on station at Jacksontown aroundthe clock.

Currently, Licking Township has full-time chief on duty from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Wilson is joined by a parttime paid EMT/paramedic during those hours. Two paid part-time EMT/paramedics are on duty from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday nights. Volunteers back up the paid staff during their duty hours and provide total coverage the rest of the time.

The fire company set a new run record in July with 105 runs – 87 EMS and 18 fire. The previous record of 102 runs was set in February. As of Tuesday morning, the company had made 54 runs so far in August.

After considerable discussion, trustees decided to cut the new millage request in half due to concerns about the cost to property owners and the willingness of residents to pay more taxes. A three mill levy will cost the owner living in a home valued at $100,000 an additional $92 a year. If voters approve, it will be a continuing or permanent levy. The township currently has two one-mill five year levies. Due to new construction and property value appreciation those one-mill levies are being collected at .89 mills and .90 mills. They generate about $219,000 a year and voters will be asked to renew them every five years.

The proposed three mill levy would generate an additional $357,900 a year which would be enough to add a paid twoperson crew on station aroundthe clock. That paid crew would still improve the response time on the first call. In 2007, the average on-scene time was 9.82 minutes with volunteers and 7.15 minutes with paid staff. A paid four-person crew would allow the department to handle two EMS calls at the same time without waiting for volunteers. With calls averaging about three a day, that doesn’t happen very often but it does happen. A four-person crew is obviously more effective on a fire run.

"The three-mill levy would definitely ease the burden," Wilson told trustees Monday night. He noted that most new volunteers are friends and family members of current volunteers.

"It is my job to come and recognize when we need some help," Wilson explained. "We’ve really worked hard on the two mills they (voters) have given us. The ship isn’t sinking, but we need to prepare."

Trustees unanimously approved the last resolution required to put the now three-mill permanent levy on the November 4 ballot. Wilson plans a number of community forums to explain the need and the company’s plans to voters. "We need to present the need to the community," he said.

In other business Monday night, trustees, by a 2-1 vote, decided to take the first step to address the issue of commercial parking in a residential district. The issue arose after some residents complained about Avondale bar patrons parking in a vacant residentially zoned lot. Captain Woody’s manager Robert Mar came up with the site after residents of The Woods subdivision complained about bar patrons parking in the subdiviision. Trustees approved resolutions last fall that went into effect this spring banning parking in The Woods and allowing violators’ vehicles to be towed. Parking had been previously banned on both county and township roads in the area.

Licking Township’s zoning resolution doesn’t address the issue. The township’s zoning commission has discussed the issue and late last month sent a brief statement to trustees. That statement includes, "Our current Zoning Resolution does not make any mention of parking lots in Agricultural or Residential areas as a permitted use. The terms and and definitions section of the Resolution only defines parking lots for use in commercially zoned areas. The Board has taken the stance in the past that if a use is not specifically mentioned in the Resolution it then is not permitted use. Based on the Board’s interpretation of our current regulations, parking should not be allowed in Residential and Agricultural areas under any circumstances."

Trustee President Joe Hart has cautioned several times that the issue is much broader than just parking for Avondale bars. He notes that it occurs daily at The Dawes Arboretum and several times a year at Legend Valley. A blanket prohibition could affect parking for auctions, yard sales and other special events. Hart has suggested making commercial parking in a residential area a conditional use. That designation would require an application and then a hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals which would allow a case-by-case determination. The Board could also set specific conditions such as requiring a buffer or screen.

Trustee Joe Cooper brought the issue up Monday night. He reported that the Zoning Commission is moving ahead on a proposal to address the issue. Cooper believes it will be presented as an amendment to the current resolution, not as part of the total rewrite that the Commission has been reviewing for the last two years.

Amendments to the zoning resolution can be initiated by the Zoning Commission, trustees or residents. Hart announced he had a specific amendment ready that will make parking in a residential district a conditional use. His proposal makes "off road parking for special evens or business" a conditional use in a residential district. Cooper wanted to wait for the Zoning Commission proposal, but Trustee Dave Miller seconded Hart’s motion. "I think it is a good resolution," Miller said.

"Each one deserves to be examine don its individual merits," Hart explained. "Personally, I don’t see where it (parking) is hurting a thing."

"The overall concept should be developed more thoroughly," Cooper countered. Hart’s amendment was approved 2-1, with Cooper voting "no."

The proposed amendment will be sent to the Zoning Commission. The Commission will forward it to the Licking County Planning Commission for its non-binding recommendation. Then the Zoning Commission must schedule a public hearing and make its recommendation to trustees.

By the time, the amendment comes back to trustees, it will no longer require an unanimous vote to modify or reject the Zoning Commission’s recommendation. HB 562, this year’s capital appropriations bill, included a provision, effective Sept. 23, 2008, that changes the requirement for an unanimous vote of trustees to a majority vote. Trustees will also hold a public hearing on the proposal before making the final decision.

During public comments, zoning commission member Dale Wise said, "I don’t feel parking on residential land is in the best interest of the community."

"I’m trying to get language in that allows an objective review on a case-by-case basis," Hart explained.

Trustees also agreed not to request a hearing with the Ohio Division of Liquor Control if Charles E. Krumm Jr. could present evidence that the former Avondale Marina held a liquor license in 2007. Krumm explained that he bought the marina last fall and believed that he was also buying its liquor license. He later learned that the liquor license was revoked by the Division for nonpayment of taxes.

Krumm then filed for his own D-5 license which allows on premises consumption of liquor and on premises consumption of beer and wine plus off premises in original sealed containers. Trustees initially thought his application represented an additional license in the area. Krumm’s license will simply replace the one held by the previous owner.

He told trustees he is considering several national franchise restaurants for the site. He mentioned a Roosters as one possibility.

Trustees cancelled their next regular meeting set for Tuesday, Sept. 2. The next regular meeting will be a 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 15 at the Licking Township Fire Company station on Jacksontown Road.

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