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Perry County reconsidering planning commission

NEW LEXINGTON – Does Perry County need a planning commission? Perry County Commissioner Lonnie Wood said Jan. 16 that Perry County’s planning commission was disbanded nearly a decade ago when the commissioners who were in office at the time determined the planning commission members were being inflexible toward applicants. Wood said it might be time to reform a county planning commission, although it’s very early in the discussion stages and no official action has been taken.

“It’s one of those things we haven’t gotten into yet,” he said. Currently, only Reading, Thorn, and Hopewell townships are zoned in Perry County.

Were the county to reform the planning commission, Wood said it would include, among others, representatives from the engineer’s, auditor’s, and recorder’s offices, and the board president from each township would need to report as necessary.

Resident Pete Myer, critical of Perry County’s handing of planning issues, is skeptical of a new county planning commission’s effectiveness. “If they actually staff the thing, maybe, but the difference between north and south (Perry County) may be impossible,” he said. The zoned townships are in northern Perry County. Myers said that in the past, the commissioners have claimed that when any one of them “reviewed” a plan, it constituted a meeting of the planning commission. He said a former commissioner claimed that the commissioners and a planning commission are basically one in the same.

Licking County Planning Commission Director Jerry Brems said re-establishing a Perry County Planning Commission could potentially save the county money, because projectsparticularly subdivision projectswould be built right the first time, and there wouldn’t be continual adjustments made to designs or as many extended legal battles.

“When the housing slump’s over,” said Brems, “Perry County will experience the same development pressure Licking County is experiencing.”

Brems was clear that a planning commission shouldn’t intimidate Perry County townships and municipalities – the local governments always have the final say over development issues. The planning commission simply helps them administratively and makes recommendations.

Thornville Administrator Ron Koehler said the Perry County Planning Commission split up long before he became administrator, so he wouldn’t venture an opinion.

But, Thorn Township Trustee Tim Phipps believes it would be a good idea. “I could see where we could use that,” he said. Right now, said Phipps, it’s no one’s specific job to try to attract development into Perry County. A planning commission could help the county progress, he said.

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