Thursday, September 4th, 2008
Warning issued for illegal campground in Mercer village
By Shelley Grieshop
Local health officials are cracking down on an illegally-operated campground in the unincorporated village of Mercer along state Route 707.
In May 2007, the owner of the property, John Belton, was given information on how to develop a campground as required by law. He was told he needed a plan approved by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), EPA permit approvals, proper sanitary sewers, etc., according to Michelle Kimmel, sanitarian and environmental health director for the Mercer County-Celina City Health Department.
"We heard he went to the Dublin Township trustees to get a zoning change (from agriculture to recreational) but was turned down," Kimmel told health board members meeting Wednesday.
Kimmel said she and fellow Sanitarian Chris Miller performed a surprise inspection at the "Lost Creek Campground" on Sunday - during the Labor Day weekend - and found seven or eight campers set up. State law stipulates that a campground exists when five or more campers are present.
Belton reportedly has advertised the campground - distributing flyers and posting signs in the area and at the entrance to the property - and continues to make improvements to the property to indicate a campground is operating on site, Kimmel said. He also operates a pick-up truck advertising the campground name.
Belton initially told the pair the property does not fit the definition of a campground since he "knows everyone camping there" and only accepts monetary donations for compensation.
Kimmel said a document will be drafted giving Belton a reasonable deadline to submit his plans to ODH. If he doesn't follow through, the matter will be turned over to the prosecuting attorney's office.
Board members discussed the illegal use of the land and agreed the issue could be sent on to the prosecutor's office.