East Palestine councilman pushing for registration

EAST PALESTINE – What started out as a meeting to go over the 2014 budget turned into yet another discussion about property registration.

Councilman Don Elzer mentioned the registration during the finance committee meeting, after council discussed the budget briefly.

The matters were somewhat related, as council members were pleased income tax revenue is increasing and real estate values have been creeping upward lately.

“It looks like houses are selling for more money in East Palestine. That trend must mean people are coming to town … I think people are noticing the town because of the real estate that is so cheap,” Councilman and Finance Committee Chairman Jim Tyger said.

He also said the town’s more “presentable” appearance is drawing people.

Elzer said a house at the corner of Pleasant and Main streets sold at auction not long ago for $31,000 – up from the $12,000 it was listed for two years ago.

While it is good people are coming to town the village should know about it, he added.

“We have to have some logical system for letting her know who is here,” he said, referring to Finance Director Traci Thompson who is responsible for putting together the budget.

Mostly Elzer is concerned with new commercial operations and said he has spoken with business owners who were “shocked” to learn they were not required to notify anyone they were in town.

He said businesses must be approved before operating in other areas, like Columbiana.

Councilman Alan Cohen said that is because of Columbiana’s zoning laws. A company or individual must first approach the city’s planning commission before opening a new business or making changes to an existing one.

In East Palestine commercial operations follow state law and operate on a state permit. Retail businesses are required to hold a vendor license through the county.

Elzer said council needs to look at local commercial building permits and move away from relying on the state permit only.

He suggested business owners be required to show the village their state permit while Cohen suggested a requirement that those holding a vendor license be required to present that license to village hall.

“I agree we should have some way of knowing they are here,” Cohen said.

Over the summer Elzer had suggested enforcing annual registration for new and existing business owners. The registration included a $25 fee that would have to be paid before the business is allowed to operate.

That suggestion was set aside after Cohen questioned its feasibility under Ohio law.

Village Solicitor Shirley Smith alluded to that again this week.

“I just don’t think we can approve or disapprove them was more of the bigger issue. Keeping statistics, I think we could do that,” she said.

No action was taken on the matter and Tyger adjourned the meeting.

Council approved the 2014 budget during the regular meeting shortly after the committee meeting.