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Trustee delays colleague’s rezoning request

UNION TOWNSHIP – A request by Trustee John Slater and his wife, Penny and township fiscal officer Jessica Slater and her husband, Mark, to rezone some property at 460 National Road, was placed on hold for 20 days while fellow Trustee Charles Prince further considers the request.

The Slaters want to change 3.602 acres of land from Agricultural to Rural Residential 3 zoning. Slater recused himself from discussion during the Monday night zoning hearing.

Trustees Jack Justice, Jesse Ours and John Slater approved several amendments to the Union Township Zoning Resolution early in 2006. The changes primarily affected minimum lot sizes. Agricultural District lots were changed from a minimum width of 180 feet and a minimum area of two acres to 300 feet and 10 acres respectively.

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 3.602-acre lot, and it would be completely separate from the jointly-owned farm.

The request was unanimously approved by the township zoning commission. The Licking County Planning Commission’s non-binding recommendation to Union Township was to deny the requested zoning change. The staff recommendation which was accepted by the Commission stated, “This recommendation is based upon the opinion of the staff that this zoning amendment does not conform to the Union Township Future Land Use Map and that the proposed rezoning is not a continuance of an existing zoning district and, therefore, could be construed as an illegal spot zoning…”

Prince said he’s sympathetic to the Slaters request, but wants to fix the problem for everyone affected in the township, himself included. He believes the 10-acre minimum was rushed through the township zoning commission and trustees without enough publicity and public discussion. The increase was designed to slow development and reduce enrollment pressure on Granville Schools.

Prince said the development pressures no longer exist with dozens of lots available in subdivisions. He added that the 10-acre minimum wastes farmland, and unfairly limits the property rights of farmers. Prince said a comment made during the trustees hearing in 2006 by then Trustee Jack Justice disturbed him. A farmer asked about splitting off a few acres so a family member could build a home. Justice told him they could file a request to rezone the property to a classification with a lower minimum.

“I’m 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.”

Prince said he wanted a commitment from his colleague – John Slater – that he would help fix the problem for everybody next year. Fixing it means reducing the minimum lot size closer to the low density residential limits of three to four acres. John Slater did not comment during the hearing.

Trustee President Rick Black said he and Prince needed to solve the immediate issue – Slater’s request for a rezoning – and then begin to solve the larger problem.

Prince said he was uncomfortable solving the problem for Slater, but not for the rest of the township.

“I concur with a lot of your concern,” said Black. “I always thought 10 acres was too much.”

Greene said larger lots were required because of concerns about water recharge rates for wells on smaller lots in part of the township. “Do we penalize everyone?” Prince said. “It’s difficult to sell a 10-acre lot.” It’s not an efficient use of farmland.

Black asked Prince why he didn’t raise his concerns earlier.

Prince said the public hearing is the appropriate place to raise concerns.

Since ttrustees have 20 days to consider the Slaters’ request, Black and Prince decided to set a special meeting for 11 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6, at the Union Township Complex to revisit the rezoning.

In other township news:

• Prince said he had concerns about the township road crew beginning its workday at 6 a.m., saying doing so presents a “safety and productivity” issue. “No one starts before 7 a.m.,” he said, with the exception of the county highway department, which starts at 6:30 a.m. during three summer months.

He surveyed the Villages of Hebron and Millersport; and Harrison, Liberty (Fairfield County), Licking and Walnut (Fairfield County) townships plus the Licking County Highway Department. 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.

Slater asked Prince if he’s discussed this with the road crew.

“No. We don’t run the township for our convenience,” Prince said, adding that he wanted to do his research before raising the issue. “I think it’s dangerous as well.” It’s still dark until 7 a.m.

Road supervisor Dave Cable said he does paperwork during the first hour or so until it gets light and other crew members do “shop work.” “That hour is not wasted,” he said.

Prince said during fair week he stopped by the garage to discuss a complaint about excessive stone on Granview Road. Everything was wide open and as he looked for someone he saw “a large screen TV running in a lounge-like” room. “That doesn’t send a good message to the public,” he said.

Cable said he was offended that Prince implied he and his crew are not working.

Prince said it’s hard to understand the need for the morning hour of shop time.

“You’re implying there’s an extra hour,” Slater said.

Prince said starting the day at 6 a.m. is not productive.

“Maybe you need to visit,” said Black.

Cable said there’s more to the job than doing roadwork.

Prince said he wasn’t convinced there is five hours worth of paperwork to do in a week.

Slater said ending the day at 2:30 p.m., as the road crew does now, has them off the road before school traffic, speaking of safety. He said Prince’s survey of other villages’ road crews merely states a work schedule. “They may want to start at 6 a.m., too,” he said.

Prince said he spoke with trustees, administrators and supervisors for his survey who unanimously agreed with him.

“We’re getting more out of our guys than other townships,” Black said. “I want to give them some flexibility in how they get their work done.”

Prince said the argument is that it’s convenient for them to quit at 2:30 p.m., but he doesn’t believe it is safe or productive.

“At this point in time, I’m not willing to change it,” Black said.

Slater said he would do his own research before rendering an opinion. “Maybe ending their day at 2:30 is safer,” he said.

Prince asked Cable if the crew logged what it accomplished during the day. Cable said he’d be willing to do it. Prince said he wanted to see the log at meetings and would continue to raise the issue.

Resident David Hiatt asked Prince how many times he visited the township garage. Prince said he’d visited “a couple times,” but hadn’t entered the shop.

“I’d ditch the TV,” Hiatt said, but urged Prince to spend more time at the shop.

• Prince said Licking County Auditor Michael Smith told him a drop in fire levy income between the first and second halves is nothing unusual. “Basically, what he’s saying is, that’s common,” Prince said. Previously, Prince raised concerns about a significant drop in revenue from the townships three fire levies from the first half collections to the second half. Total revenue for the second half dropped 13.5 percent. A five-year contract approved last December with the Granville Township and Hebron fire departments earmarks all fire levy revenue generated in each department’s service area to that department.

Fire levy income earmarked for Hebron dropped 15.6 percent in the second half, a reduction of $49,352 from first half income. Granville Township only lost 8.3 percent or $10,433 from the first half to the second.

Full year revenue for Hebron is $582,926.99, which is nearly $40,000 below its revenue from the township in 2012. Granville Township’s total revenue is $241,312.45, which is $161,312 more than it received from the township in 2013.

Prince expressed concern that a drop in fire levy revenue likely means a drop in revenue from the township’s inside millage, which doesn’t require voter approval.

Smith explained that when property tax collection is projected, the auditor’s office typically does not estimate what percentage of the population would be likely to pay their tax for the full year in January and February. He said there will always be a certain percentage that pays their second half tax when they make their first half tax payment. Basically, there’s an estimate and a total whose numbers will not match because two totals are being compared. Also, the numbers do not reflect any fees deducted at the time of settlement.

Smith said Union Township has been running between 12.812 percent to 16.092 percent difference between first and second half collections. The bottom line is, the countywide difference is 18 percent, and so Union Township is actually running better than average.

• Prince said he’s concerned about Hebron Fire Department receiving less money than it did in 2012 from the township and Granville Township Fire Department receiving three times what it received in 2013 when Hebron makes far more fire runs into Union Township than Granville; the Hebron Fire Department serves the area south of the railroad and Granville serves the northern section.

Black said Hebron is receiving all of the EMS billing revenue from the southern portion of the township. “It’s fair,” he said.

Prince disagreed, saying the money needs to be directed to where the needs are, as opposed to where it was generated.

Black said McKean Township does it the same way.

“Hebron’s runs far outpace Granville’s,” he said. “Hebron hasn’t come to me and complained,” it was something he discovered on his own.

• Trustees agree to crack seal Williamson and Connemara roads in the Fairmount subdivision. Milliken Drive in the Newark Indusrial Park will be restriped.

Slater said Swamp Road is “passable” to farm vehicles, but the county’s contractor still needs to install guardrails after replacing a large culvert under the road.

• Trustees unanimously agreed to buy a new loader for $64,422.60, but opted not to trade-in the old loader for $15-16,000. Rather, it will be used exclusively to load salt to extend the life of the new loader. The current loader only has about 2,200 hours on it, but salt has taken a toll on it.

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