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Prince insists on fixing acreage issue for everyone affected

UNION TOWNSHIP – Union Township Trustee John Slater said Monday night that he is confused as to why Trustee Charles Prince is delaying granting a zoning change Slater requested. Slater and his wife, Penny, and township fiscal officer Jessica Slater and her husband, Mark, want to rezone some property at 460 National Road. The Slaters want to change 3.602 acres of land from Agricultural to Rural Residential 3 zoning.

The Slaters want to split off the home and some accessory buildings onto a separate parcel without giving up part of the existing farmland. The 2006 zoning amendment sets a 10-acre minimum for Agricultural District lots so the Slaters are seeking to rezone the property to RR3, which has a three-acre minimum.

Township administrator Paula Greene said the Slaters want the lot split so Mark and Jessica Slater can have sole ownership of the home and buildings, and it would be completely separate from the jointly owned farm.

Trustees held a public hearing on the request at their Oct. 20 meeting. Prince said during the hearing that he is sympathetic to the Slaters’ request, but wants to fix the problem for everyone affected in the township. “I want to fix the problem for everybody in the township, not just myself,” Prince said. “If I vote for this, we’ve just taken care of one of our own.” He asked for a commitment from his colleague – John Slater – that he would help fix the problem for everyone next year. John Slater did not comment during the hearing.

Prince said he is uncomfortable solving the problem for the Slaters, but not for the rest of the township.

“I concur with a lot of your concern,” said Trustee President Rick Black during the hearing. “I always thought 10 acres was too much.”

Trustee President Rick Black and Prince ultimately set a special meeting for 11 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6, at the Union Township Complex to revisit the rezoning, but Prince said Monday he’d already made up his mind.

Monday night he proposed a resolution to lower the minimum lot size in the township’s agricultural zoning to three acres. The minimum had been two acres prior to the 2006 change. “Ten acres is way too much,” he said. It wastes farmland and limits property rights. “I’m very sympathetic to what your family is trying to do,” Prince added.

Greene said it wasn’t appropriate to bring up the rezoning Monday night because it is scheduled to be addressed at the special meeting.

“This is a separate issue,” Prince said, adding that he’s talking about solving the minimum acreage issue township-wide. “Why are we doing this to people,” he said. He again bought up the example of a farmer wanting to split off a few acres for a family member to build a home. Suggestions that a zoning change be sought for a smaller lot isn’t a solution, Prince said. It is a time consuming and difficult process that will likely draw a negative recommendation from the Licking County Planning Commission as did the Slaters’ request. Such zoning changes could be considered “spot zoning” which is illegal. Greene said the township has rural residential zoning all through it that allows for two to four acre lots.

Prince said he drafted the resolution to start the process to fix the problems caused by the 10-acre minimum. He provided copies of Ohio Revised Code 519.12 that states, “Amendments to the zoning resolution may be initiated by motion of the township zoning commission, by the passage of a resolution by the board of town- ship trustees…” He added that the issue must still go to the township zoning commission for its recommendation, to the Licking County Planning Commission for its non-binding recommendation and then back to trustees for the final decision. Public hearings are required at each stage.

Black said he had no opposition to the zoning change but wanted to run the proposed resolution past the Licking County Prosecutor’s office before voting on it. “I want to make sure it’s done right,” he said.

“I can’t support fixing this for one person (Slater) and not for the rest of us,” Prince said. He said the resolution is very straightforward and doesn’t change anything. It only starts the process to fix the problem township-wide, he said.

Once the prosecutor says the resolution is in order, Black said he would support it, but he wasn’t willing to approve it before then.

Prince moved to adopt the three-acre resolution, but it failed for a lack of a second person to move for adoption.

In other township news,

• Prince said he surveyed more road crews and found none begin work at 6 a.m. Previously, he said he had concerns about the township road crew beginning its regular workday year round at 6 a.m., saying doing so presents a “safety and productivity” issue. “No one else starts before 7 a.m. year round,” he said. For most of the year, it is still dark well past 6 a.m., he said, which makes it dangerous to work on or along roads in the dark. Prince added the Fairfield County Highway Department and ODOT-District 5 to his survey that now covers nine entities. Fairfield County maintenance workers work from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. year round. District 5 maintenance workers work from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. from Labor Day to Memorial Day and from 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. between the two holidays.

Prince said snow events and hot summer months are exceptions, but otherwise he believes the road crews should work from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. because he doubts they can be productive before daylight.

“I think the assumption is the crews are not working in the dark,” said Slater who disagreed with Prince and said he knew of at least one other road crew that begins at 6 a.m.

Prince maintained that it’s difficult for workers to find something productive to do every day before daylight, except for snow events and sweltering summer days. Earlier, Black said he is satisfied with the road crew’s work.

• Prince asked Greene whether Police Officer Tommy Lucas was working private duty at last Saturday’s State Cross County Tournament at National Trail Raceway. She confirmed he was and Prince asked whether the township was compensated for the use of its cruiser while it idled for hours in the roadway. She said “no,” but promised to draw up a policy over the winter that would compensate the township for the use of its cruiser on private duty. “We shouldn’t provide a cruiser to a private entity,” Prince said.

• Granville Township Fire Chief Jeff Hussey told trustees he expects a “renewed dialogue” about replacing the Granville fire station as the department looks toward next year’s goals. The Granville Township Fire Department provides fire and EMS services to the portion of the township north of the railroad tracks. That contract runs through 2018. “This (existing) building was not designed to accommodate paid staffing, so we have been forced to utilize two neighboring houses as offices, dorms, and ancillary work spaces,” he said. “The current facility situation presents a number of operational challenges and certainly needs to be addressed as our organization continues to grow in response to increased emergency call volume. We certainly will include you in those important discussions.”

Hussey said this year the department would reach the end of its federal peak time staffing grants. He said by having six personnel on duty during peak hours, the department improved its ability to deploy several trucks to an emergency and to handle simultaneous calls. “We intend to continue with peak time staffing increases by utilization of EMS transport revenues,” Hussey said. “In fact, we’re considering expansion of peak staffing to include some key weekend hours.”

Hussey said last month he asked for an Insurance Services Office (ISO) evaluation, with the goal of further decreasing fire insurance rates for the properties the department protects. He said the department has made many improvements since the previous ISO evaluation in 2008, including improved staffing, increased training, equipment upgrades, and improvements to communication and technology. Hussey said he’s “optimistic” that an updated ISO evaluation would result in lower insurance rates for its service area.

Hussey said so this year, Granville Township fire department has responded to Union Township 87 times on 30 fire and 57 EMS calls. “Our incident activity continues to climb,” he said. “This is a significant increase from 2013, in which we responded to 67 call the entire year, of which 31 were fire and 36 were EMS in nature.”

• Scott Miller, an engineer at National Gas & Oil, said NGO wants to extend an existing gas main about 2,400 feet along Beaver Run Road to improve supply access to farmers. He said he had permits and just needed trustee approval to proceed. Trustees agreed. “You’re good to go,” Black said.

• Trustees now have a detailed report from JG3 Consulting Pavement Management Services of Hebron on the condition of the township’s nearly 52 miles of roadway. The firm will provide a detailed report and discuss the results at the trustees’ Nov. 17 meeting. Prince had proposed that JG3’s data and services be used to assess the impact of AEP’s use of several township roads and creation of two temporary construction access roads off Canyon and Gale roads for construction equipment being used to upgrade a major transmission line. AEP countered that it would have a consulting firm video tape the roads used just before work started and then after the project was complete. Prince asked whether JG3 could assess a road conditions from a videotape. A text from JP3 confirmed that they can. Prince said he could agreed to the use of the consultant’s before and after videotapes, but said the agreement with AEP should provide that if JG3 and AEP’s consultant are unable to agree on the impact on the township roads that an independent accredited pave assessment firm should make the determination, not AEP’s consultant.

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