On Center stage
LISBON – Center Townships residents wanting to question a proposed zoning plan can do so at a public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. May 27 at the township hall.
Hosted by the township trustees, the purpose of the mandatory meeting is to seek public input on the plan before trustees decide to place it on the Nov. 4 general election ballot for voters to decide.
“Once we do this, and we don’t have to make any changes, we can put it on the ballot,” said Trustee Joe Csonka. The filing deadline is early August.
If the trustees recommend any changes, the plan would be returned to the five-member zoning committee for adoption. This would require another public hearing to consider the recommended changes before sending the amended plan back to trustees for approval.
“I don’t think we’ll make any changes,” Csonka said, speaking as one trustee, but he said that could change, depending on what residents have to say.
“This is about as basic as you can get,” he said of the 110-page plan, which creates three zoning districts: residential and agricultural, commercial and industrial, and special.
Among other things, the plan prohibits outside storage of junked and abandoned vehicles and boats in residential areas. It also bans storage of junk, junked vehicles, disabled and inoperative machinery and equipment in residential and agricultural districts.
A five-member zoning board appointed by trustees would be created to oversee the plan, if it is approved by voters, with a permit fee structure created to help pay for a zoning inspector and related costs.
The plan has been available for public inspection at the Lepper Library and online at CenterTwnshp.org since early April.
Csonka again praised the work of the five-member committee, which he believes represented a good cross section of township residents, in developing a plan that strikes the right balance between protecting residential property owners but is not so overly restrictive that it unreasonably interferes with private property rights or impedes economic development.
Without some form of minimal zoning, Csonka said the person with a nice home and well-maintained property is at the complete mercy of neighbors who choose to turn their property into a mini-junk yard.
“The problem is when people do this they devalue their neighbor’s property,” Csonka said, adding he has been a reluctant convert. “I never would have thought I would ever want zoning, but I have a completely different outlook because of my 12 years as trustee.”
While some residents have criticized him for even pursuing zoning at all, Csonka said they are simply leaving it for voters to decide.
“All we’re doing is offering them the ability to have zoning, and if they don’t vote for it, we tried,” he said.