Group gets a reason to meet

LISBON – When the Columbiana County Planning Commission meets Monday to consider approving a proposed housing development it will be the first time it has been asked to do so in more than five years.

“How about that, huh?,” quipped Marie Cox, planning commission secretary. “It’s been a while.”

The commission approves plats for construction of new homes, whether individually or in groups, after determining they have met the county’s development requirements.

In the years prior to 2008, the commission met monthly to review and approve such requests, but that all came to a halt when the Great Recession hit, bringing all new housing development in the county to a screeching halt.

Since then, the commission has only met once a year, not to act on any new application, but to simply reorganize and elect officers. “Other than our reorganizational meetings, that’s been about it,” Cox said.

The last meeting for any other purpose was in February, to consider a variance request from a property owner who wanted to build a home for himself.

Cox said it would be fair to use the frequency of planning commission meetings as a barometer to measure the county’s economic condition. While new homes have been built since 2008, it has been on an individual basis.

“No one has been selling land (for development). Mostly, we have single property transfers, where mom and dad are transferring land to their kids,” Cox said.

The request before the commission is from Don Whittenmyer, who is seeking final approval for the second phase of his Seven Springs housing development off Hoffee Road in Hanover Township. The commission approved the subdivision in 2004 but the plat was not recorded within one year, requiring it to be resubmitted.

The lack of activity in the county has been noticed by Ed Browne, the surveyor hired for the project. In his letter to the commission, Browne asked that the lot and addition fees be waived “as a courtesy to my client, who is one of a small few submitting a plat for expansion in our county during this dismal economy.”