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Thornville driveway can continue

THORNVILLE – A Thorn Hill resident may continue working on his driveway, even though its construction will create a pond on his village property, the Thornville Planning and Zoning Board decided Monday night.

“It’s not going to be a mosquito pit,” promised resident Mike Mohler, whose new driveway will dam a stream on his property and create a three-fourths acre pond. The village told Mohler to stop construction of the driveway a few months ago because the village does not allow new ponds within its limits. However, Mohler has some unusual circumstances.

Zoning Inspector Melissa Brofford explained Wednesday that Mohler purchased a 27-acre parcel in the Thorn Hill subdivision that was originally slated to be divided into several lots. But, since the Great Recession’s housing crunch, the developer opted to sell the parcel as one huge lot, on which Mohler plans to build one home. “That is our largest home site,” said Brofford. She said it just happens that his 1,500 feet driveway crosses a stream and Mohler decided he’d rather build a dike than worry about a bridge or culvert. Brofford said when Mohler’s permit was issued there were no restrictions on driveways and his permit is still valid. “He’s not creating a pond to create a pond,” she said. The pond is only a result of the driveway construction. Mohler said his neighbors didn’t object to the pond.

“(Mohler’s) lot has special conditions that other properties within the village don’t have,” said Mayor Gavin Renner Wednesday. He said Mohler has a lot of terrain, including a ravine that runs directly through a portion of the property. This ravine collects storm run-off water from property owners upstream and drains down toward a creek.

“In order for him to build his driveway to access his property he will have to cross the ravine as was shown on the permit,” said Renner. “He chose to build a dike across the narrow portion of the ravine and put in an overflow.”

Renner said that since the overflow is higher than the current route of the ravine it’s likely that rainwater will be retained behind the dike to create a pond. He said Mohler had contacted the Perry County Soil and Water Conservation District office and discussed his plans. Mohler provided Thornville a letter from the PCS&W department indicating that “there is no concerns at all that the constructed pond could cause any flooding or inundation by water of property beyond the ground owned by (Mohler)”

Renner said it’s Village Solicitor

Brian Zets’ opinion that the code Mohler had to comply with when his driveway permit was issued did not allow the village to review construction methods. The only criterion for review was the physical location of the driveway on the property. The driveway permit is still valid and the stop work order that Brofford issued against the creation of the pond – which is a product of Mohler’s legally permitted driveway – is not subject to village zoning control. Renner said Brofford will issue a letter to Mohler indicating that his stop work order is released and he may continue the construction of his driveway.

Renner said current ordinance dictates that all issues of zoning compliance and enforcement are for the zoning inspector to determine. The zoning inspector has the option to bringing any matter to the zoning board for review or comment. “At the meeting on Monday she exercised her option to get more input from the planning and zoning board explaining the issue and the opinion the village received from the Village Solicitor,” he said.

Mohler’s permit was still valid even though it had the wrong address listed. “I’d like to thank former council member and mayor Terry Lynn for pointing out the discrepancy,” said Renner. “In our zoning book, it outlines guidelines for completed applications. It specifies a parcel or description of the property. It doesn’t specify a street address for the property is required.” He said the zoning inspector and the village administrator work with the county to assign addresses and in this case there was an error with the address assigned. Brofford and Village Administrator Ron Koehler are working with the county to correct the address. “The application correctly lists the parcel number and legal description, which more accurately describe the property,” said Renner. “The zoning permit issued is for the correct parcel of land and thus the permit is valid despite the addressing error.”

Renner said the village has one opening for a resident planning commission member. This individual would have a vote on the board, hear issues and appeals related to zoning and participate in future planning for the village. Resumes are accepted at the village office.

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