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Zoning Fight Continues After Initial Citizen Victory

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Great news and a fresh call to action in our fight to protect Ohio Townships from state takeover of zoning authority.

We have a short-term victory in our long-term fight to protect Township zoning authority.  The “toe in the water” bill that threatens Township zoning rights may be dropped by the committee that introduced it. The Chair of that committee, Senator Michele Reynolds (R-03), reported in a hearing last week that Townships “freaked out” about the prospect of their zoning rights being attacked. The outcry of citizens and the pivotal efforts of the Ohio Township Association and the Geauga County Township Association have been successful. 

One of the most important functions of local government is to protect the rights of citizens, even and especially against other government entities. Many thanks to all of our Trustees and Fiscal Officers county-wide and our Geauga County Commissioners, who rose to the challenge by generating and signing letters to Ohio Legislators expressing their opposition to any attempts to alter township zoning authority. You can view the letter, crafted by Jonathan Tiber of the Geauga County Township Association, in this post.

This is encouraging news, but we must remember that Senate Bill 243 is only one tactic in a larger trend that sees state and regional entities constantly nibbling away at citizens’ rights to local government. While no hearings have been scheduled specifically for Senate Bill 243, it was discussed last week in a hearing after a presentation by Mr. Brad Bodenmiller, Director of the LUC Regional Planning Commission (Lucas, Union, and Champaign Counties). While questioning Mr. Bodenmilller on his presentation, the Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Housing, Michele Reynolds, referred to the “placeholder” legislation and the committee targeting township zoning authority as an impediment to housing development:

“We’re trying to make sure that we can bring to fore more housing in the state of Ohio and we realize that zoning is just part of the process and we realize that those are just local matters…what role should the state of Ohio be playing as it relates to zoning considering that it is a local issue but it has a state impact? …What should we not be doing?”

Mr. Bodenmiller replied, “I would not abolish Township zoning. I would not take away people’s rights to have zoning locally. I think you’d miss out on all that democratic process by eliminating that…. In terms of eliminating township zoning or referendum, we did circulate a letter to all of our townships and have signatures from all the townships and each of the three county board of commissioners passed resolutions saying, ‘Hey we don’t like that idea.'”

Chair Reynolds concluded, “I will say that we put out a placeholder bill regarding zoning, we have absolutely nothing in it and we got lots of calls of the townships freaking out that we were going to do something like that and this letter generating, and really what we’re trying to do here is gather info, work cooperatively, so that we can build something together. But zoning is definitely something we have to address. Fist of all we traveled the state and heard from constituents in 5 areas of the state and you know these are stakeholders too and there’s things that were discovered that we have to address so we can’t ignore it, we won’t ignore it. We want to build it together from the bottom-up, not the top-down.”

From these statements, we can gather the committee has heard our efforts, but we must remain vigilant to the other tactics already laid out in the Housing Committee’s report. After all, SB 243 was only one strategy. The report published by the Senate Select Committee on Housing lists 23 recommendations, at least 6 of which would alter township zoning authority and impede the rights of citizens in townships to put housing referenda on their ballots. (See “Housing Reimagined: Building a Solid Foundation for Ohio’s Future,” 2024 pages 84-87, items 2, 10, 12, 17, 18, 23). 

For now, our strategy remains the same: make it clear to our legislators that we will not tolerate any infringement on local township zoning rights or any changes in the processes we use to exercise those rights. As the Housing Committee continues its process, we must keep up pressure to remind them we will not tolerate threats to our township autonomy. Please add your voce to this initiative by visiting our Zoning page for details and simple instructions.

3 Responses

  1. 06/30/2024

    […] of zoning:  Read our latest update, Zoning Fight Continues After Initial Citizen Victory.  We have a short-term victory in our long-term fight to protect Township zoning […]

  2. 06/30/2024

    […] UPDATE: Zoning Fight Continues After Initial Citizen Victory […]

  3. 07/09/2024

    […] fight to protect our townships continues:  Read our latest update, Zoning Fight Continues After Initial Citizen Victory.  We have a short-term victory in our long-term fight to protect Township zoning […]

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