PT taking property owners to court
Three Prairie Township property owners will soon receive notice of pending litigation from the township zoning department.
At a meeting Feb. 11, zoning department Chairperson Connie Swisher gained approval from the board of trustees to begin the next step toward litigation of the property owners in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
One property on Arnold Avenue is in violation of the township’s zoning for having commercial vehicles on the property without a permit, according to Swisher. Another Arnold Avenue property, which has already been deemed a nuisance by the township, is in violation of zoning regulations based on the amount of trash in an open area on the property. The third property, located on Evergreen Terrace, involves disassembled vehicles and trash, all also in violation of the township’s zoning laws.
Swisher advised trustees that the zoning department sent several letters to the property owners to encourage compliance with zoning regulations. However, the property owners have made no attempts to communicate with zoning officials.
Originally, Swisher asked trustees to approve taking a fourth property to court, but according to Trustee Nicole Schlosser, the resident of the property had contacted her the day of the meeting to advise he had begun complying with zoning by moving his commercial vehicle.
According to Swisher, the zoning department gives the benefit of doubt to property owners initially. But, when the problem reoccurs, the zoning department must take action.
“We try to accommodate people,” Swisher said. “A lot of times, it just takes one letter for the problem to go away. The normal procedure is four letters. There is an informal letter, the first notice, second notice, then final notice.”
Sometimes, however, the zoning department must be more persistent until it can no longer take any further action besides litigation, said Swisher. When a case goes to court, the judge will issue a permanent injunction, in which the defendant agrees not to violate the zoning regulations again. If the defendant does violate the regulations, he or she will be held in contempt of court and subject to fines.
Litigation on behalf of the township’s zoning department does not cost the township anything except staff time, as the township is represented by a Franklin County prosecuting attorney through a contract, according to Swisher. The rest of the court costs are up to the defendant.
The township averages four to six litigations a year, according to Swisher. But she added there have been years that no litigations have taken place.
“For the most part, people try to comply,” she said.
What has helped minimize the litigations, Swisher believes, is the township’s nuisance procedures. Those procedures assist in giving the zoning department leverage in litigation.
“Before this board started the nuisance procedures, we had to go to court to have the owner’s even remove the trash,” she said.
Timeline in place for South Grener
In other business, the trustees approved a timeline for Phase I of the South Grener Avenue project. The project includes three phases and is made possible by Ohio Public Works Commission project grant money and interest-free loans.
Trustees approved advertising for bids on Feb. 23 and March 2, with the opening of the bids on March 16. Stantec Design Firm will award the bids during a regularly scheduled trustee meeting March 25.
The first phase, according to township administrator Tracy Hatmaker, will include regrading and repaving a section of South Grener Avenue, between Sullivant Avenue to just south of Stiles Avenue. Work will also take place on the curbs, gutters and sidewalk on that stretch.
Phase II will involve the same work done on South Grener Avenue between Stiles and the northern most entrance to Home Depot. The final phase will include installation of a modern “roundabout” near Home Depot, as well as any realignment that needs to take place.
Though figures were not immediately available at the Feb. 11 meeting, according to a community meeting in August, the entire project is estimated to cost about $5.03 million. According to Hatmaker, two-thirds of the cost will come from the OPWC grant and the rest will come from an interest-free, 20-year loan.
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