By Sean Rice
Zoning change efforts underway in eastern Jefferson Township may need to be restarted because the proposal was overhauled midway through the legal steps required, The Daily Standard has learned.
According to Ohio law, Mercer County Zoning Commission members failed to hold a required public hearing and give timely notice to property owners adjacent to a 65-acre parcel around Wright-State University-Lake Campus that is being considered for a zoning change.
The zoning commission has been considering a request from State Rep. Keith Faber (R-Celina) to change the definition of the special/parks (SP) zone in eastern Jefferson Township to allow for better use of a vacant office fronting Ohio 703 near the campus. Faber has expressed an interest in purchasing the building.
The requested zoning text amendment would have added a short list of business uses to the SP definitions.
In eastern Jefferson Township, east of Celina, the zoning code says permitted uses in SP zones are agriculture, wetlands, reserves and floodways. None of the SP zones are being used correctly, zoning commission chairman Ed Raudabaugh has said.
SP zones in eastern Jefferson Township include the lake campus, Northmoor Golf Course, American Legion, Oldtown Cemetery, the 4-H camp and Mercer County Sportsman Association.
Ohio law states the specific steps required to make changes to the county zoning code include a public hearing before the zoning commission and a comment hearing before the county planning commission. The final step is a public hearing before the county commissioners, who make the final decision. Public notification also is required through a newspaper, but changes to the zoning code text don’t require individual notification of property owners.
After the zoning commission’s public hearing for the Faber text amendment on Jan. 17, the commission voted to change the request. The new request was to change the zoning classification of the parcel with the vacant building, and the 65 surrounding acres, to a commercial/general business (C) zone.
Raudabaugh said zoning commission members decided the SP text change was too broad and would affect all the spotted SP zones when the purpose is to address the area surrounding the vacant building.
A wide array of retail, wholesale, service and professional businesses would be allowed in a C zone.
The area to be rezoned includes the 10 acres where Auglaize-Mercer YMCA sits, the parcel along Ohio 703 with a vacant building, the 40-acre Lake Campus and 15.5 bare acres owed by the Western Ohio Educational Foundation. Another strip of bare land along Ohio 703 is included also.
The rezone request was sent to the Mercer County Commissioners, who set the final public hearing for March 18.
With the issue changed to a rezone request, Ohio law requires individual property owners to be notified. Also, a new rezone request requires a zoning commission public hearing and a comment from the planning commission.
Nearby property owners were not given notification of the Feb. 17 zoning commission public hearing. An official with Wright State University said the college was notified of the effort to change the campus’ zoning to commercial only recently.
Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Andy Hinders told The Daily Standard the process may need to be sent back a few steps. He will be contacting the county commissioners on the issue today.