Confusion delays ‘friendly’ warning letters

LISBON–Confusion over who was supposed to mail the first round of “friendly warning” letters to property owners in violation of the new vacant building law was cleared up at this week’s village council meeting.

Councilman Peter Wilson was given the go-ahead at the Aug. 28 meeting to work with village zoning inspector Zach Barkley to compile a list of owners of vacant buildings in the downtown business district who will receive a “friendly warning” letter advising them they need to comply with the new law passed in February, which requires they make some effort to lease or sell the building rather than continue to let it sit empty.

Wilson asked about the status of the letters and was told by village fiscal officer Tracey Wonner she never received a list of intended recipients. Wonner, who also serves as council clerk, said the only list she received was from Wilson and it was of all property owners within the downtown historic district.

Wilson said Barkley should have emailed a list, and Wonner said afterward the only email received from Barkley was on another matter. She contacted Barkley, who is to send her the list she needs so she can print out the friendly warning letters for Wilson to sign and mail out.

Council also discussed the fate of a sample warning letter Wilson wants to be mailed to residential property owners whose dilapidated homes are in violation of the maintenance code. Wonner said village solicitor Megan Bickerton did not voice any objections or concerns about the sample letter, and Wilson was told to proceed with compiling a mailing list.

The letters were once part of former Mayor Joseph Morenz’s efforts to enforce the village’s residential and business building maintenance laws. Morenz stepped down July 31, partially because of Wilson’s persistence in wanting to take a quicker and more aggressive approach in enforcing those laws. As a result, Wilson agreed to assume responsibility for seeing these letters are prepared and mailed out.

In other business, council agreed to make $3,470 in repairs to the leaf collection machine after Councilwoman Dawn Thomas said it was too late in the year to come up with a plan to provide residents with leaf bags instead. Thomas suggested at the Aug. 28 meeting they hold off on the repairs so she could explore the leaf-bag option as a way to save money rather than continue fixing the oft-broken leaf machine.

Councilman Jerry Cox said a bigger problem is the village may no longer be able to dispose of leaves and branches at the village’s dump site at the west end of Maple Street, which came under scrutiny earlier this summer by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The problem is residents were disposing of brush and trash at the site too until it became an eyesore, so the OEPA required the village to install a gate to control access. The state also prohibited the village from disposing of brush and leaves within a certain distance of the nearby Middle Fork of the Little Beaver Creek.

Cox said the site is almost at capacity and the village currently has no where else to dispose of leaves and branches. “We’re entering an era where what are we going to do with this debris?” he said.