Liberty Twp., residents clash over zoning change

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Liberty Twp. Residents and builders protest change

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Trustees and residents clashed during a public hearing Tuesday over zoning changes.

The issue, according to the three trustees, is straight forward: if someone changes the use of their property then the zoning should reflect that. But several homeowners and developers said that requires a new and potentially costly process.

“I sense a loss of property rights,” Jeff Gaker told the trustees. “What I’m here to ask is you is whatever you decide to do, please send out another letter and explain to the homeowners and to land owners exactly what it is you are doing and why you’re not taking away property rights.”

Trustee Tom Farrell, who later apologized for losing his cool, stressed that outdated code was simply being updated. Something, he said, every other surrounding community has already fixed.

“We’re not asking anybody to do anything else than what for most people would be common sense,” Farrell said. “That is if you change the use of your land, have it zoned for what you’re using it as. In this case it only affects 43 properties and it stops this from happening the in future.”

Farrell said the amendments would not have an impact if someone wants to sell their property.

However, Dan Dressman, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati, sees things differently.

“If they bought it for one price and they thought they had the ability to sell off plots without actually going through a zone change at some point in time, when they were not interested in farming any longer, now that ability is being taken away from them,” he told the Journal-News. “That’s really what it comes down to.”

Jim Obert, vice president of planning, zoning and development for Hills Properties in Cincinnati, said the zoning process is expensive — as much as $30,000 — and time consuming, typically taking six months.

“You have to hire the engineers, you do the drawings, you do the maps, I’m in the business … I know ($10,000) is what it costs minimally to do a zone change. Then you have to go through the time duration,” he said.

Director of Planning and Zoning Bryan Behrmann said there is a $700 application fee but the rest of the costs the developers discussed wouldn’t come in until a project reached the county level at the planning and development phase.

There are 43 properties the township identified that would be affected by the amendment, because they are currently zoned for agriculture but are within residential areas on the “vision plan.”

The trustees approved the text amendments and waived the $700 fee for the impacted property owners — an offer that is good for 45 days after a letter informing property owners of the waiver is mailed.