December 24, 2003


Zoning board questions trustees on land use plan

Disagreement over the proposed Miami Township Comprehensive Plan arose at the Township trustees’ meeting Dec. 15 when members of the Miami Township Zoning Commission expressed frustration with the trustees’ decision last month to hire Greene County Regional Planning Commission as consultants for the plan.

The Regional Planning Commission created the Greene County land use plan, which the trustees used as a reference tool before they decided that the Township needed its own plan. Lehr Dircks, chairman of the Township Zoning Commission, and commission member Scott Hammond questioned why the trustees would choose a consultant whose own plan they found did not serve the interests of the township.

Dircks said that Miami Township is facing imminent threat of development on its western edge from growth in Fairborn and Beavercreek. The Township needs to encourage rural property owners to consider options to restructure their land when and if they sell it in order to have the best chance of preserving Miami Township’s rural character while maintaining the rights of property owners, he said.

“We weren’t thrilled with the township portion of the Greene County plan, so we were looking for other options out there,” Hammond said. “Farmland preservation [included in the Greene County plan] doesn’t address the township getting eaten up by growth at the western end.”

Zoning Commission members said they would prefer instead to have access to as many ideas as possible from as many sources as possible. Hammond suggested that the Township hire consultants from Wright State University’s urban affairs department, who could offer expertise on creating zoning tools such as cluster housing that would enable property owners the flexibility to sell their land and develop it intentionally. He also suggested the Township consult other townships’ land use plans.

Zoning Commission members said that the current draft of the Township’s Comprehensive Plan lacks both definition of creative land use options to choose from and freedom for land owners to decide how they want to use their land. The trustees made the current draft too restrictive for property owners, commission members said.

If and when farming is no longer an option, farmers need to have options for their land, Hammond said.

But trustee Lamar Spracklen said the trustees felt that the Greene County Commission could provide the Township with options that encourage agricultural preservation, enable the purchase of easements to preserve prime farmland, and facilitate the systematic development of rural residential properties in groupings rather than spread out haphazardly. Plus, Greene County could do it at half the price other consultants are likely to demand, he said.

Trustee Mark Crockett said that the Comprehensive Plan would simply be a guide for zoning and doesn’t need to be as specific as the zoning code.

“But it’s what Zoning Commission uses to create the zoning code. It’s the road map to what you’re doing later,” Dircks replied. “If there’s no plan, then Zoning Commission will do whatever can get passed by the voters.”

Compounding commission members’ frustration was their perception that the trustees made the “knee-jerk” decision to hire the Greene County Commission without first consulting them. The commission members said that they expected the trustees to develop a pool of potential consultants and discuss them with commission. But the trustees have done a poor job of communicating with the commission all year, Dircks said.

Commission members also said that the position of Chris Mucher, the president of the Miami Township Board of Trustees, on the Greene County Regional Planning executive committee could give him a conflict of interest with using Greene County as a consultant.

Mucher said that the regional plan board is made up of representatives from all Greene County townships and municipalities. If his position on the board posed a conflict of interest, then none of the other area boards could use regional planning as a resource either, he said.

After the meeting, Crockett said that communication between the trustees and the Zoning Commission has been difficult because both boards have been busy this year with projects such as wellhead zoning and other zoning code revisions. In addition, both boards are made up of unpaid volunteers or part-time officials who have regular full-time jobs that keep them stretched thin, he said.

The trustees are not opposed to incorporating specific and creative land use options into the Comprehensive Plan, Crockett said. But most important, the two boards should improve communication, he said.

“I think the communication glitches can be ironed out,” Crockett said.

The trustees plan to meet with the Zoning Commission in January to continue discussing the Comprehensive Plan.

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In other Township business:

• The trustees agreed to give each of the five Township Zoning Commission members $100 gift certificates to show appreciation for the work the commission does.

• The Miami Township Fire-Rescue has fined Antioch College over $5,000 during the fall quarter for false alarms, Fire Chief Colin Altman reported. The college recently began fining its students for setting off the alarms, Altman said, and the department has already begun to see a decrease in the frequency of alarms. Antioch has reported that most of the alarms were caused by students smoking and burning incense in the dorms.

• The fire department appointed seven new volunteer firefighters this month: David Epley, Lee Gillespie, Eric Henry, Eric McCune, Chris McKinless, Toivo Rebone and Mike Stohner.

• Fire-Rescue is applying for grants from the Ohio Fire Marshall for $4,000 and the Ohio Department of Public Safety for $7,000 to reimburse the department for fire training and EMT courses. The fire department will offer a basic EMT training course from Jan. 14 to April 15.

• The fire department found asbestos in a home on Whitehall Farm that it planned to burn in a training exercise. The department plans to remove the floor tiles containing the toxic substance and burn the structure early next week.

• The fire department responded to 19 EMS calls and 30 fire calls between Dec. 1 and Dec. 15.

• The trustees paid bills in the amount of $37,881 from Dec. 1 to Dec. 15.

—Lauren Heaton