County Might Contribute Financially toward The Plains Zoning Effort

The original story can be found here in the Athens Messenger

By Steve Robb Messenger staff journalist

Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Jan. 16 newspaper on Page A1.

With an Athens County planning group recommending the county commissioners initiate the zoning process in The Plains, and with a majority of county commissioners against playing that role, another alternative surfaced on Tuesday.

Eddie Smith, an Athens Twp. trustee, met with the county commissioners Tuesday and suggested a joint effort by the commissioners, Athens Twp. trustees and Dover Twp. trustees — with the commissioners possibly contributing to the cost of hiring a zoning consultant. The Plains is divided between the two townships.

The commissioners seemed receptive to the idea, although County Commission President Lenny Eliason said the commissioners would need to get a legal opinion on whether the county can contribute financially.

“One thing that needs to happen before anything else happens, though, is a definition of what is The Plains and where is the zoning (to happen),” Eliason said.

Officials noted several factors that could be looked at when defining The Plains: ZIP codes, voting precincts and the service area of The Plains’ water and sewer system. Eliason said it should not be the county that determines the area considered for zoning.

Ultimately, it would take a vote of residents to enact zoning.

“It is only the people who are affected by it that vote on it,” Eliason said.

In August, the Athens Twp. trustees voted 2-1 vote to establish a township zoning commission. Attention then turned to whether the Dover Twp. trustees would also approve formation of a zoning commission. In early January, a majority of the Dover Twp. trustees voted against it.

Eliason said he believes the Dover Twp. trustees were concerned about cost.

If that’s the case, a county financial contribution toward hiring a zoning consultant might help alleviate that concern.

In September, the Athens County Regional Planning Commission formed an ad-hoc committee to look at zoning issues regarding The Plains. After the Dover Twp. vote, the committee recommended that county be asked to form a zoning commission for The Plains. The Athens County Regional Planning Commission accepted the recommendation and voted in favor of it. All three county commissioners are members of the regional planning commission, but two of them — Eliason and Charlie Adkins — voted against the measure, with Commissioner Chris Chmiel voting for it.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Eliason and Adkins reiterated there view that zoning should be done on the township level.