Center ready to pull lever

LISBON – Center Township trustees are one step away from placing a proposed township zoning plan before voters in the Nov. 4 election.

The trustees held a required public hearing on the plan last week, and since no changes are anticipated they will likely vote to place it on the ballot at their next regular meeting on June 12, according to Trustee Joe Csonka.

He said the hearing was attended by about 30 people, most of whom appeared to oppose the plan. The Morning Journal was unable to attend the meeting.

“No one really brought up a specific issue they wanted changed,” Csonka said. “They just said they were against the whole thing.”

The 110-page plan creates three zoning districts: residential/agricultural, commercial/industrial and special. Among other things, the plan prohibits outside storage of junked and abandoned vehicles, and disabled and inoperable machinery and equipment in residential/agricultural districts.

A five-member zoning board appointed by trustees would oversee the plan, with a permit fee structure created to help pay for a zoning inspector and related costs.

Csonka, who chaired the meeting, said they tried to come up with a minimalist plan that strikes a balance between protecting residential property owners from a bad neighbor but is not so overly restrictive that it unreasonably interferes with private property rights or interferes with economic development. For example, the plan includes no restrictions on oil and gas development.

“All I told them is I feel sorry for people who keep a nice property and then a jerk moves in next door and keeps his property trashy,” Csonka said.

Most of the two-hour meeting was spent dispelling misunderstandings about how the plan would work, he said. For example, one person thought if his home burned down he would be prohibited from rebuilding because his property would be in a residential/agricultural district. Csonka said that is not the case.

Another person who owns a business in what would become a residential/agricultural district wondered what would happen if he sold his business. Csonka said the new owner could seek a variance to continue operating the business at the location and it is unlikely such a request would be denied.

“Why wouldn’t five people (on the zoning board) and three trustees want to see it stay in business and continue to employ 15 people?” he said.

Others wanted the zoning board to be directly elected by voters instead of appointed by trustees. “I told them you picked us to represent you, and that’s the way government works,” Csonka said, adding they can always vote out the trustees if they disagree with their zoning board appointments.

As for the plan, he said it can be amended if the trustees deem it necessary. “I told them nothing is written in stone. It can be changed,” Csonka said.

“The bottom line is if the people want it, they’ll vote for it,” he added. “That’s the American way.”