Opposition to zoning already in place

LISBON – The proposed zoning plan for Center Township has yet to be placed on the ballot, but opponents are already joining forces to oppose the measure.

Darryl Muir filed paperwork this week with the Columbiana County Board of Elections to create Neighbors for Property Rights to oppose the zoning plan, designating himself as the organization’s treasurer.

Muir said he was advised by the Ohio Elections Commission to form what he called a “mini-political action committee” so the group could legally accept donations and spend money in opposition to the zoning plan.

“So I basically have to ask the government for permission to oppose this,” he said.

Muir, who lives on Lisbon-Dungannon Road, said the group consists of neighbors “who agree with me” and other zoning opponents who attended the June 26 meeting where trustees said they would vote to place the plan on the ballot at either their July 10 or 24th meeting. The filing deadline is Aug. 6 for placing issues on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

The organization held its initial meeting this week at Scene Vista Park, and Muir said about 30 people attended. The group will solicit donations to run advertisements and put up yard signs in opposition to the plan. He said they have already prepared a flyer for distribution that takes a humorous approach to pointing out what they believe are the plan’s flaws.

“I’m taking it as my responsibility to let people know what’s in it,” he said.

The trustees described the plans as limited in scope and focused on creating a legal framework to protect residents from neighbors who fail to maintain their properties. Muir disputed this, saying it does neither, and goes way beyond the stated intent.

He pointed out the plan is 110 pages in length but only 56 words are devoted to addressing the issue of residents keeping their property looking trashy. “It’s not minimal. It’s a comprehensive (zoning) plan,” Muir said, adding that it is more restrictive than Lisbon’s zoning plan.

Muir said trustees have stated existing property owners would be “grandfathered in” under the plan, with the regulations applying to existing residents only when they make changes to the use of the property.

“If we’re all grandfathered in to the date this passes, and I’ve got 14 junked cars and six refrigerators in my front yard, can I keep them?” he asked rhetorically, saying the answer appears to be yes. “If you read it closely, it solves nothing.”

Muir also questioned whether the zoning rules can be enforced without the trustees eventually using general fund revenue to subsidize zoning operations. “If someone doesn’t want to clean up their property, what are they going to do?”

While he believes the plan to be deeply flawed, Muir has no problem with the trustees putting it on the ballot for voters to decide.

“I don’t take this personally … in any way, shape or form. I’ve got nothing against those guys,” he said. “It’s about the document, not them.”