EATON — Preble County Commissioners last week approved several rezoning requests following hearings held on Wednesday, July 6. One such case brought extensive discussion, some relating to future land use for residential construction in Preble County.

The most-discussed case, number 1563, was presented by Douglas E. Kramer, acting as agent for property owners Brooke and Justin Hoke, who had submitted application to have approximately 17.5 and 22.8 acres, exclusive of road right-of-way, reclassified from Agriculture to Special Use Provision.

“The area of land sought to be reclassified contains approximately 883’ & 60’ feet frontage located along the south side of Paul McKee Rd., approximately 1,250 feet east of New Paris-Eldorado Rd.” in Jefferson Township. The proposal was to separate the 40.971-acre tract into two new tracts of 17.6 and 23.4 acres.

According to Kramer, the goal is to put a new home on the property. “This is an opportunity for them to sell a tract to their parents which will allow them to live close to their family without changing the character or appearance of the neighborhood,” he said.

Preble County resident and a neighboring property owner Rusty Anderson, who due to behavior deemed unruly had been escorted from a previous hearing at which the case was tabled, questioned the proposal. Among his issues with the case, Anderson questioned the survey measurements of the property.

“It’s just simply a product, Mr. Andersen, of measurements being more accurate maybe, or measurements being determined a little bit more in relation to other monuments then independently,” Kramer said. “Often, a quarter section of ground is what’s supposed to be in the beginning, 160 acres according to the original landlords written in the early 1800s. However, we find 160-acre tracts that are easily 10 or 20 acres off or so, commonly, because original surveyors also had difficulty measuring through the woods to exactly those monuments. They set those monuments and then those monuments control our surveys that we subsequently do in any location in this part of Ohio,” he tried explaining.

Other discussion continued regarding the accuracy of the surveyed measurements before commissioners weighed in on the rezoning proposal.

“The rural zoning board could not come up with one point in favor of this split according to land use management, and they voted five to zero to deny it,” Anderson told commissioners. “And I have not heard one piece of testimony from Mr. Kramer using the land use management, I’ve heard about New Lebanon and a lot of other stuff, but not one point from the land use management in his favor. So, I’m just going to ask that you — I’m against it and ask that you — follow the rural zoning board’s lead.”

“I’ve put, I would say, close to 35 maybe 40 hours in my office poring over the zoning documents for both the pros and the cons,” Commissioner Adam Craft said of the case. “And a couple things I’ve learned, number one, we have a pretty comprehensive zoning code here in Preble County. Number two, it’s kind of ambiguous, but it’s ambiguous for a reason. It’s ambiguous because I think the people who wrote it and set it up, want to give us the ability to kind of do with how we see fit on property and on land, and we want to make sure that we are cognizant of not only our private property rights — the right of the citizens to do what they want with the property they bought with their hard earned money — but we also want to talk to their neighbors. And if what I want to do on my property adversely affects what someone else wants to do on their property. That’s kind of the why we have these zoning codes and that’s why we have these things on the books.”

Craft went on to cite from the county’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Land Use Plan, noting, “The need for shelter is one of our most basic needs. No area of development is more crucial to our well being than housing. Therefore, it is essential that all communities in the county seek to provide suitable housing for all citizens.”

“I think today’s the perfect day to have these hearings following the proclamation that we just offered,” Commissioner Rachael Vonderhaar commented. (Commissioners had just prior to the hearing recognized retired Economic Development Director Brenda Latanza.) “The work that has been done in this community for expanding our businesses and the open positions that we have. We have about 500 job openings in this county just in manufacturing alone. And with that, part of the issue our companies are having on hiring is location. So when we look at the size of our county and our last census and the loss that we had and our population numbers, we have this increase in potential manufacturing and the open jobs that exist. We have two worlds that are trying to figure out, ‘how do we all fit in the same community together?’ Thankful for the work that’s been done on the land use management plan, I do think that this board has the opportunity to offer definition back to planning and zoning as to how we interpret the plan.

“Coming from the world of agriculture and having had the opportunity to walk this property specifically, the question becomes for me as a taxpayer and a property owner and a farmer: How do I see all the sides coming together? And what does that mean?” Vonderhaar continued. “When we have a piece of land that is not going to be farmed? And it’s clearly not forestry land. When you walk in it, yes, there is some timber but it’s not harvestable timber. You have plenty of space to build a house on it. So what does that value bring back to this community?”

Vonderhaar said she originally had some concerns related to the direction and pin location “but now that the vacation of the right of ways been accomplished, I think that no matter what direction we head, we’re going to end up in the same conclusion as to what’s considered acceptable use of that property.”

“As to how many laps we want to make to have the conversation, and how much money and time is spent, I think that’s really up to the people in this room,” Vonderhaar continued. “But for me, being a mother of young adults that are looking for their place back in this community, and what does that mean and how do we make the lifestyle of this community affordable to as many as possible and make sure there’s room and opportunity to fill those jobs positions — I think this is a great opportunity for us to offer a definition back to Preble County as to how we achieve those goals.”

“I think my fellow commissioners made some very valid points,” Commissioner Dave Haber added. “Plain and simple. This property is not going to take anything out of agricultural production.”

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the rezoning of the Hoke’s property.

Other cases which were heard and approved unanimously with no extensive discussion included:

•Case #1565. Stephen A. Pope, P.S., Agent for Patricia Webster & Marta L. Ogle, FKA Marta L. Schuck, submitted application to have approximately 28.39 and 13.89 acres, exclusive of road right-of-way, if any, reclassified from Agricultural to Special Use Provision. The area of land sought to be reclassified contains approximately 2540 feet frontage at the southeast corner of the intersection of Utz Road and Jordan Road in Twin Township. The proposal was to separate off from the Ogle property, approximately 6.24 acres and have it re-described into her daughter Marta’s 8.0-acre tract.

•Case #1567. Stephen A. Pope, P.S., Agent for Glenn A. Price submitted application to have approximately 2 acres, exclusive of road right-of-way, if any, reclassified from Agricultural to Restricted Rural Residential. The area of land sought to be reclassified contains approximately 497.6 feet frontage along the south side of Lewisburg-Western Road, approximately 1440 feet east of Bohn Rd. and Prices Creek Rd. in Harrison Township. The proposal was to separate off from the farm, a 2.200-acre tract of land for the construction of a new home.

•Case #1568. Stephen A. Pope, P.S., Agent for Mindy L. White, FKA Mindy L. Hurd submitted application to have approximately 9.75 acres, exclusive of road right-of-way, if any, reclassified from Special Use Provision to Restricted Rural Residential, Rural Residential and Agricultural. The area of land sought to be reclassified contains approximately 119.9 feet frontage along the west side of West Florence-Campbells-town Rd., approximately 681.5 feet north of Crawfordsville- Campbellstown Rd. in Jackson Township. The proposal was to separate off approximately 6.763 acres and combine it with the “Beiser” farm to the north, and to also separate off approximately 1.393 acres of pasture land and add it to an adjacent property, leaving the 1.677 acres to support the existing home and garage.

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