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Trustees approve first I-2 Industrial District

MILLERSPORT – Walnut Township Trustees unanimously approved the township’s first I-2 General Industrial district at a special meeting Tuesday morning.

The decision came on a request from Jerry Mock to rezone approximately 66 acres on the west side of Ohio 37 from I-1 Light Industrial to I-2 Industrial. Trustees originally scheduled a public hearing for April 22 on the request, but that hearing was postponed to May 6 at the applicant’s request. Currently, Mock’s son, Rusty, operates a stone yard, recycling business and roll-off container business there. Township zoning inspector Ralph Reeb has acknowledged that he was wrong when he told the Mocks that I-1 would cover their activities. At some point, Walnut Township determined that those activities must be in an I-2 district since the activities are not conducted inside an enclosed building as I-1 requires. The Mocks do not concede that point.

They do agree that the proposed uses for three out parcels they are selling along Ohio 37 do require I-2 zoning. Carrie Snoke, an attorney with Dagger Johnston representing Mock, said they are “in contract” on two parcels – a four acre site for a propane storage and distribution facility owned by United Landmark and a three acre site for a metal fabrication business owned by Iron Fab. A sale of another four acre tract to Hydromaster Seeding and Tree Service is still pending.

Snook told trustees Tuesday that the township zoning resolution requires screening when industrial property abuts residential property. She presented a site plan that included mounds and trees. “The site plan is proposed at this point,” Snook said. “It is subject to change.” No heights for the mounds were specified.

She added that the I-2 designation “fitsin the general character of the neighborhood.” Rezoning to I-2 will allow more businesses to come into Walnut Township, Snook said. She also noted that both the regional planning commission and the township zoning commission recommended approval.

Todd Pechar, an attorney with Stebelton, Aranda and Snider, LPA representing neighbors Ronald and Irene DiPaolo, told trustees the application “should fail, ” due to confusion about whether it covers both parcels. Pechar also cautioned that once the door to I-2 zoning is opened, there is a whole host of things that can move in. He also referenced Reeb’s prior statements about “gaping holes” in the zoning, suggesting that those holes be fixed before approving I-2. He also proposed that the site plan be included as a condition for approval.

Trustees set a three minute time limit for public comments. Reeb stopped Pechar for time mid-sentence.

“There is a lot of confusion in our zoning regulations,” Ron DePaolo told trustees. “It’s just a mess.” He asked trustees not to create an I-2 district until the mess was cleaned up.

“I don’t want to see businesses creeping up the road,” another neighbor said. “I don’t think any of you (trustees) would like to see a business at your front door or next door. Making two mistakes doesn’t fixone,” he said before being cut off by Reeb.

“I didn’t move to the country to hear truck back-up alarms or concrete grinding,” neighbor Scott Howes added.

Several neighbors also mentioned their fears about a possible construction and demolition debris landfill on the site. Snook acknowledged at the regional planning commission hearing that a landfill feasibility study is being done.

In Snook’s rebuttal opportunity she said Mock’s original application had two surveys attached. “It was pretty clear to me.” She added that a March 18 letter from her to the township supplemented the record.

The hearing closed after 38 minutes. There were no questions or comments from trustees during the hearing.

Fiscal officerPauline Ety then read the recommendation from the regional planning commission and a letter from the Baltimore Community Improvement Corporation asking that the property not be rezoned until zoning regulations are updated.

“We are only trying to rectify a mistake that our zoning inspector admits to making,” Trustee Sonny Dupler said. He then moved that the application be approved. Trustee Wally Gabriel seconded the motion and all three trustees supported the motion. Only one positive vote was required to approve the zoning commission’s recommendation. There was no mention of any conditions tied to the approval.

Ety reminded everyone that trustees have scheduled a special meeting at 8 a.m. on Monday, May 12 for a vote on Licking- FairfieldCorporation’s request to rezone approximately 289 acres from R-R Rural Residential to I-2 General Industrial. That hearing was held as scheduled on April 22. The meeting will be held in the township offices at 11420 Millersport Road.

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