Schlabach Builders will develop Gilchrist Estates in phases starting at Upper Gilchrist Road and working inward. Phase 1, shown in green, consists of approximately 22 lots. The whole subdivsion includes 109 lots.

MOUNT VERNON — At its May 24 meeting, city council gave a first reading to legislation approving Schlabach Builders’ plan for a multi-family development on Upper Gilchrist Road.

Schlabach Builders is in the process of buying 73 acres for the Gilchrist Estates subdivision. Development starts at Upper Gilchrist Road and works inward. At its May 13 meeting, the city’s Municipal Planning Commission approved plans for Phase 1, which consists of approximately 22 lots.

“The entire subdivision is 109 lots total,” Chad VanSickle of Diversified Engineering told council members during a Planning and Zoning Committee meeting.

Diversified Engineering is the engineering consulting firm for Schlabach Builders.

The city will provide the water for the subdivision. A gravity-fed sanitary sewer system will tie into the existing sanitary sewer that runs north of Colonial Woods Condominiums.

Detention ponds (catch basins) will handle stormwater runoff. City Engineer Brian Ball said that Ohio EPA stormwater regulations require the developer to control the quantity and quality of the water.

“We will have multiple ponds based on what we need for each phase,” VanSickle said.

Phase 1 needs two catch basins. VanSickle said that right now, the catch basins are planned to be part of a lot.

“So whoever owns the adjacent property next to that basin will be the actual owner of the lot. On that lot there will be restrictions for the basin that will be maintained by the city,” he explained. “Another option is to have the city take ownership of the basins themselves on the parcels.”

“The developer does not want to create an HOA [homeowners association], so there would be no permanent entity to operate or maintain the stormwater [program] they would be building specifically for this subdivision,” said Ball. “In essence, they’re asking us to be their HOA just for stormwater.”

“The city will be responsible for the maintenance whether we own it or not. That will be the developer’s decision. Either way, we’ll get paid to take care of it,” explained Law Director Rob Broeren.

“All of these folks will pay our minimum fee for the public storm water that everyone pays in the city. They will also have a small surcharge to maintain their private stormwater system,” said Ball.

Auditor Terry Scott will create a special fund for the Gilchrist Estates neighborhood. Money that property owners pay for maintenance will go into that account.

Broeren said there will be restrictive covenants on the deed requiring the owner to make the surcharge payment to the city for stormwater maintenance. Those covenants would transfer every time the property gets transferred.

Ball said that bringing on 154 new users equates to a 1% increase in water revenue. That number reflects monthly bills only and does not include tap fees.

“We have the ability to sell the water and we have the water. From a utility perspective, this is a great opportunity to keep our costs down by getting new customers,” he said.

Planning and Zoning Chair Mike Hillier will hold a public meeting at the June 14 council meeting so that community members can comment. The meeting will include in-person and Zoom options for participating. Check the city’s website for meeting information or call 740-393-9517.

Amending rules of council

In a separate Planning and Zoning meeting, council members commented on Councilman Tanner Salyers’ resolution to amend council’s voting procedures.

Historically, council members have voted in the same order. The only thing that changes each meeting is who votes first.

Salyers introduced the legislation in the wake of controversy stemming from Safety-service Director Richard Dzik changing the order for the May 10 meeting. Council member Samantha Scoles alleged that Dzik made the change in order to manipulate the vote on two pieces of legislation. Mayor Matt Starr subsequently suspended Dzik two weeks without pay.

Under the amended procedure, ward representatives would vote first and according to ward number. At-large council members would vote alphabetically. Six council members went on record as not supporting the amendment.

Noting that he did not call for a committee meeting and did not think it was necessary, Hillier said, “This has always worked out. We’ve never had a problem until we had someone who wanted to manipulate the vote.”

Scoles feels that the council president should incorporate voting procedures, whatever they might be, into the organizational meeting so that it is in writing. Councilman John Francis agreed, saying that Salyers’ amendment is a knee-jerk reaction.

Council members Tammy Woods, Janis Seavolt, and Julia Warga agreed that council should stick with precedence and put procedures in writing.

Salyers disagreed, saying the current voting process is random and “there’s no reason why we vote the order we do.”

“The opportunity to vote second or fourth is irrelevant,” he said.

Hillier said the legislation will receive the same due process as other legislation. Council gave a first reading to the amendment in its legislative session.

Shade Tree and Beautification Commission

A third committee meeting focused on an ordinance designed to align the powers and duties of the Shade Tree and Beautification Commission with its actual activities.

Current code states the commission will recommend to the safety-service director those expenditures necessary to carry out its mission. The proposed amendment gives the commission authority to apply for, receive, administer, and enter into agreements regarding grants and donations to be expended, activities the commission is already handling.

“This [amendment] expands their authority to do some of the things that they have been doing,” said Salyers, adding that the original ordinance essentially makes the commission an advisory committee.

Council gave a second reading to the ordinance amendment.

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