Ross Twp. voters overwhelming denied creating their own zoning department

Voters in Ross Twp. have been asked if they want to control their own zoning, a move that allows them to direct the future growth of the township but comes with a cost and the answer was a resounding no.

Final unofficial vote tallies in all six precincts show the measure failed by 74% to 26% or 2,765 votes to 978, so zoning decisions will remain in the hands of Butler County. Had it passed it could have cost the township more money than it has to spend

Fiscal Officer Julie Joyce-Smith estimated if they hired a full-time staffer it would cost around $116,000 for salary and benefits for a zoning administrator, legal fees and other costs. She said it might have cost about $68,500 for a part-time person.

Trustee Ellen Yordy told the Journal-News she wasn’t surprised voters denied the measure.

“I kind of figured as much, we’re just not in a position right now to go forward on zoning,” Yordy said. “Maybe in a couple years I’d like to see it go in. But we’re just like everybody else ... we don’t have the money.”

In 2020 after 339 residents submitted a petition for the township to take control of its own zoning, the trustees appointed a zoning commission and with the help of a consultant that panel updated the land use plan and drafted the zoning resolution and map.

In response to that petition the trustees placed a question on the ballot asking voters if they wanted the township to take over zoning from the county.

ExploreRoss Twp. zoning issue has tricky loophole

Trustee Keith Ballauer said after the petition was filed there have not been any “boisterous people selling it” or overt efforts to get the zoning question passed and he didn’t favor it himself.

“It would have been paying for something locally that we’re already receiving from the county and I think from our fiscal officer we could swallow that payroll for probably two fiscal years,” Ballauer said. “And then we would have gone to the people of Ross Twp. to support a levy to pay the wages of that particular department, we wouldn’t have been able to sustain that.”

The couple who spearheaded the effort could not be reached for comment.

Ballauer said the “legwork has been done if it arises again and our hand is forced into visiting that again.”

If the voters had said yes, the township would have had to have a zoning department in place immediately after the Board of Elections certifies the election which happens about three weeks after the vote.

They have been advertising the zoning position for more than a month and Township Administrator Laurie Kile told the Journal-News last week they had eight candidates but only one person has experience and they live near Akron.

In addition to hiring a paid zoning administrator the township also would have had to find five people — and two alternates — to serve on the board of zoning appeals. Yordy said they didn’t have much luck there either.

“We put out a request for applicants to be part of the zoning appeals board, I think we got four,” Yordy said. “So I don’t know how much interest was there, once people saw the cost of the zoning and what all it was going to take.”

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