Dam-front residents in Buckeye Lake Village and others interested in protecting private property rights might want to attend next Monday night’s Buckeye Lake Village Council meeting. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Village offices at 5192 Walnut Road SE (Ohio 79).
Buckeye Lake Mayor Clay Carroll needs to be reminded that he was elected to represent Buckeye Lake residents and to uphold village ordinances and resolutions. Instead, he is using the village zoning ordinance to give ODNR authority over private property next to the dam. He has allowed Zoning Inspector Bob Jordan to refuse to issue zoning permits necessary to obtain a county building permit for most any project on property adjacent to the dam.
Carroll, who seems to believe the strong-mayor form of government is similar to a monarchy, took this step without consulting with council members or residents. The village’s zoning ordinance is very specific in Section 302 Approval of Zoning Permit – “Within thirty (30) days after the receipt of an application, the Zoning Inspector shall either approve or disapprove the application in conformance with the provisions of this ordinance.” That doesn’t mean that it has be approved by ODNR, nor is it subject to other restrictions not in the ordinance.
Section 805 Waterfront Residential District (WR) very briefly references “building in the dam area of the levee.” Specifically, it states …“the Village of Buckeye Lake requires that zoning permit applicants follow all current Ohio Department of Natural Resources professional and safety guidelines regarding building in the dam area of the levee.” This language was the result of an update effective 4-10-06.
This single sentence does not give Carroll and Jordan authority to reject zoning permits for projects on dam-front properties. First, ODNR has not provided written guidelines and agency officials have balked at providing anything in writing. Last week, Carroll told council members that he had been asked by ODNR to write up his understanding on how ODNR wanted him to act on zoning permits following a telephone conversation with an unnamed ODNR official. ODNR knows they don’t have authority over private property so when the inevitable suit concerning wrongful denial of a zoning permit, the Village of Buckeye Lake will be left holding the liability bag.
Second, Jordan with Carroll’s approval has been denying permits for work far off the “dam area of the levee” After last week’s telephone conversation with ODNR, Carroll has agreed that if the project is more than “eight feet away from the toe of the dam” a zoning permit can be issued. The Village is to “share” a copy of the plans and the permit with ODNR. However, even if the work is beyond eight feet, the decision can be “deferred 2 (sic) ODNR” if it requires extensive excavation (whatever that means) or “anything that Bob (Jordan) feels concerned about.” That’s putting far too much pressure on an elderly non-engineer zoning inspector. He’s likely to be exceptionally cautious which is just fine with ODNR.
That one sentence reference is more than 10 years old and does not reflect the current situation. A 30+ foot wide stability berm has been constructed in front of the nearly 200-year-old earthen dam. A two-foot wide and 40-some foot deep seepage barrier has been installed the entire length of the dam using concrete mixed with soil. The lake level has been lowered to three feet below full pool. According to ODNR’s Division of Wildlife, the volume of water dropped nearly 60 percent (from 14,641 acre feet to 6,462 acre feet). So we now have a significantly reinforced dam essentially around a giant mud puddle. Residents are at far more risk from a construction accident, fire or release of a hazardous substance than any excavation on the back half of the old dam they own.
In addition, ODNR has asserted from the beginning and continued to do so Monday before the Controlling Board that the new replacement dam will be “independent of the existing earthen dam.” It will be a non-functional mound of dirt.
Construction activity has and will continue for at least two more years to restrict the ability of the dam-side residents to enjoy the full use of their property. However, they will continue to pay taxes based on the value of that full use. Now is an ideal time to upgrade or repair their properties. It’s time for Buckeye Lake Village to respect private property rights and for Carroll to support residents – not ODNR’s latest power grab.