By Amanda Ensinger
Franklin Township trustees discussed how to handle nuisance properties at a recent board meeting and again brought up the idea of becoming a limited home rule government.
“Right now, we have 16 properties the township owns, we have six properties Central Ohio Community Improvement Corporation owns and two properties in tax foreclosure,” said Franklin Township Administrative Assistant Jessica Rice. “A lot of the properties we own are empty lots where the home has been demolished.”
Township officials are now trying to determine what they are going to do with these properties. A few ideas that have been discussed include offering to sell the lots to neighbors who may want to expand their home or yard, creating a community garden and selling the lots to a third party.
“The township doesn’t want to take on any more properties,” said John Fleshman, township trustee. “However, we would like empty lots, anytime we can get God’s green Earth we should take it.”
However, the taking over of the empty lots has resulted in more work for the road department, as they have to cut the grass on the property and ensure it doesn’t become a nuisance.
The issue of nuisance properties again brought up the issue of home rule. Township officials said these are the types of issues that they could better address if they were a limited home rule government.
“Our hands are really tied. If we had become limited home rule, we could enforce laws like this,” Fleshman said. “We can’t make the wheels turn faster. We have to submit a complaint to Franklin County and wait for the wheels to turn. Basically, the best we can do isn’t good enough.”
In November 2017, the township tried for the second time to become a limited home rule government. This would have given the board power to more quickly enact rules already laid out by Franklin County and the Ohio Revised Code.
However, voters rejected this with 64 percent voting against and 36 percent in favor.
Rice said it would have allowed the township to crack down on nuisances in the community, such as massage parlors, solicitors, overgrown grass and high weeds and a variety of other laws that are currently being violated in the township.
“When people violate laws, limited home rule would just allow us to act a lot faster than the county can,” Rice said. “It also would help us clean up the township faster and deal with the abandon houses we have faster than the county is able to.”
Trustee Ralph Horn said that with the amount of rental properties in the township now, it is crucial they become a limited home rule government.
“We need the authority to do things about this,” Horn said. “The county is split up into two code enforcers and it takes time for them to get to us.”
The trustees added that they hope they can revisit this in the future and potentially add it to the ballot again.