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Fairfield Twp. makes zoning move to be consistent with state law

Fairfield Twp. officials have made the move to present zoning projects and cases to the Butler County Planning Commission on a "case-by-case" basis after the Ohio Revised Code allowed some townships that ability. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
Fairfield Twp. officials have made the move to present zoning projects and cases to the Butler County Planning Commission on a "case-by-case" basis after the Ohio Revised Code allowed some townships that ability. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: Michael Pitman

Credit: Michael Pitman

Fairfield Twp. trustees decided earlier this month to remain consistent with state law to not be obligated to send all zoning cases to the county planning commission.

Fairfield Twp. Administrator Julie Vonderhaar said the township “still plans on using them,” though it will be on a “case-by-case basis” on what will be sent for consideration. Regardless, Vonderhaar said the township will be diligent in communicating zoning issues and concerns with the county.

“We rely on the county for a lot of different things, and they’ve been really good to us,” said Vonderhaar. “We’re not going to change that.”

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Lawmakers in 2018 made a series of changes to how townships can operate, one of which was stopping a decades-old requirement that townships send zoning projects and cases to a regional or county planning commission. Lawmakers said townships with limited home rule don’t need that extra review step. The change was supported by the Ohio Township Association.

Butler County Development Director David Fehr said the change in Ohio law “is a little bit concerning” for him because there is now “no legal teeth to require it.”

“Hopefully, (townships will) make the right decision (and share zoning plans) but that guarantee has now been removed,” he said.

Fairfield Twp.‘s move was made to be consistent with the Ohio Revised Code, which is also why Liberty Twp. passed a similar resolution in August.

“Our policy remains to send zoning cases to the county planning commission and don’t foresee a change in that,” said Liberty Twp. spokeswoman Caroline McKinney. “Our motivation was to remain consistent with ORC.”

West Chester Twp. is in the middle of a zoning overhaul project, “and the discussion about the county planning commission will definitely be a part of that project,” said Aaron Wiegand, West Chester Twp. Community Development director.

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There have been no decisions made yet, he said.

“What we want to do is to make zoning as easy and as straight forward as possible for developers,” he said. “Anything that will make things more streamlined is something we’ll look at every time.”

Fehr said a primary reason the county had previously been required to receive zoning projects is townships generally do not maintain their own utilities, and the county is responsible for county roads.

“These projects do impact county facilities,” Fehr said.

Cities aren’t required to send zoning issues to the county planning commission as they maintain their own roads and utility departments.

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