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CENTERBURG — In followup to last month's discussion on parking problems in the village, Centerburg Village Council agreed on Monday to increase fines for parking violations.

Fines currently range from $10 to $25. Council's decision doubles each fine, for a new range of $20 to $50.

Fines must still be paid within 48 hours of the ticket being issued. Fines not received in the drop box or postmarked within 48 hours will automatically double.

The discussion and decision to double the fines served as the first reading of what will become Ordinance O-21-06C. Village co-counsel Lauren Swihart will prepare a written ordinance for a second reading at the July council meeting.

Village Administrator Joe Hardin said he is working Poggemeyer Design Group on brick repair and renovation costs on the Hartford building. Brick repair is completed on the Town Hall building; plaster repair started Monday. Repairs to the Clayton Street building are complete. He is also compiling tree management and street project lists.

Hardin said that he met with the Ohio Department of Transportation regarding a TAP (Transportation Alternatives Program) grant for Main Street.

“This was a very positive conversation,” he said. “Everything we discussed about Main Street will fit within the grant application. We'll proceed with a letter of intent later this year.”

Councilman Tom Stewart said the Central Ohio Joint Fire District hired four new part-time personnel. The department plans to maintain its staffing level of five per shift until Jan. 1, 2022. When levy funds become available in January, the plan is to increase staffing to seven per shift.

Stewart also noted that the COJFD will honor Kyle Lowry with the Citizen Distinguished Public Service Award on June 23 at 7 p.m. Lowry pulled a child out of a burning car while the mother was pulling out the other child.

Council member Saundra Dove reported on the active transportation plan that Centerburg is part of along with Mount Vernon, Gambier, and Danville. Knox Public Health is coordinating the effort.

Dove said lack of sidewalks on Union and Factory streets leading to the bike trail and Main Street to Dollar General, as well as lack of crosswalks, are a problem. She and Councilman Dave Beck are identifying these and other barriers to active transportation in the village.

“What this does is if at some point we want to go for another grant, we will have all of this information,” she said.

“It's also a benefit to the TAP grant. It looks good that the village is doing its due diligence,” Hardin said.

Residents can click here to learn more about the active transportation plan and to comment on sidewalks, signage, crosswalks, trails, and other issues.

In other business, council:

--Gave second readings to two pieces of legislation: proceeding with the 3.0-mill levy renewal and submitting a proposed 2022 budget to the county auditor

--Approved a parade permit for June 26 for Heart of Ohio Days

--Passed as an emergency an ordinance to honor a newly hired utility worker's previous years of service as an Ohio Public Employee Retirement System employee

--Amended appropriations for 2021

--Held an executive session to discuss annexation

--Heard from Lou Ann and Ron Ricker about flooding issues on their Johnsville Road property

Planning and Zoning

In a joint meeting with the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals, council discussed two potential changes relating to planning and zoning. The two entities are separate but have the same members and meet jointly.

Compass Point Planning highlighted the issues as part of its review of the village's zoning code. They involve the appeals process and the “alternative equivalency” procedure.

Under current code, individuals can appeal to council decisions made by the Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals, and council has the final say. According to Compass Point Planning, municipalities typically no longer follow that process as it opens the door for elected officials to be swayed if they are up for re-election.

The alternative is to eliminate the appeal to council provision and leave the final say with the commission or board.

Village Solicitor Kyle Stroh prefers to keep the appeal to council intact.

“The Planning Commission can be an objective entity, but sometimes there are other concerns,” he said.

“Any time council is giving up power to somewhere else, it's not something we would recommend,” co-counsel Swihart said.

After discussion, council and commission/board members agreed to leave the appeal to council provision in the zoning code.

Adding an “alternative equivalency” provision to the code would give the commission/appeals board leeway on some issues. Alternative equivalency means an individual could propose something different than what the code states as long as it achieves the same result. For example, a plastic covering in lieu of metal, or using an improved type of concrete.

Currently such proposals are treated as a variance and subject to approval by the commission/board.

Village Administrator Hardin said one of the difficulties with alternative equivalency is interpretation.

“What one persons sees as equivalent can be cloudy to another,” he said.

Swihart said that the more flexibility the commission/board has, the less defense the commission has on which to stand.

“From a legal point of view, bright lines are better,” she said.

Council and board/commission members ultimately decided not to add the alternative equivalency provision to village code.

The village will hold an open house on June 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Town Hall to discuss proposed zoning revisions.

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