Board changes could mean more neutrality
A change among Jefferson Township’s zoning commission and board of zoning appeals members was the latest turn of events in the ongoing debate over whether wind turbine development is right for rural Logan County.
Trustees met Tuesday evening and voted unanimously to reappoint Beth Johns to the zoning commission and Tom Elliott to the BZA. In December, Cliff Cronkleton was approved as the replacement for Tim Armentrout on the zoning commission.
In an effort to ensure the bodies can meet when needed and avoid falling beneath a quorum when the boards’ members are absent or have conflicts of interests, trustees also named several alternate members who can vote when needed.
John Phillips is the first alternate for the zoning commission and Steve Scheiderer the second. Steve Mortimer is the lone alternate for the BZA.
The appointments are part of an ongoing effort to make the bodies more free of outside influences especially as the controversial issue of wind turbine development continues in the township, Trustee President Tim Tillman said.
“We are doing the very best on both of these boards to keep these people as neutral as possible,” he said.
Susan Reames and Linda Hughes, two residents at the meeting who represent the Wind Truth Alliance group that opposes turbine development, said they believe the changes represent a fairer way of passing legislation in rural townships.
“If there is someone who has a conflict of interest they shouldn’t be voting on these issues,” Ms. Reames said. “If all the boards keep their decisions to facts they can support them with, we should be fine.”
Mr. Tillman said the decision to add alternates was a way not only to give voting members a way out when conflicts of interest arise, but also to make sure enough members are present to take action in a timely fashion.
“We are doing this because people are gone for periods of time, whether that’s because of vacation or illness or any other reason,” he said. “Until last year there weren’t many meetings, but with the wind turbine issue we are having more.”
The zoning commission and BZA are only required to meet once a year, although they convene as needed, Mr. Tillman said.
“I think the alternates they have in place are very qualified Jefferson Township residents who are willing to look at both sides of the issues, and I find that a plus,” Mrs. Hughes said. “These boards are very important to what happens at the local level and if you have boards that are very one-sided it tends to be polarizing in a community like this.”
The appointments come as the township awaits a decision from the Ohio Supreme Court on whether a wind turbine zoning amendment approved by trustees in September will go before voters in March.
Although residents filed a referendum to have the prowind turbine amendment placed on the ballot, it was challenged by lawyers representing landowners who want wind turbines on their property.
The Logan County Board of Elections sided with the residents who filed for the referendum and the lawyers appealed that decision to the high court.
The final round of legal arguments was completed late last week and township residents and officials expect a final decision possibly by the end of this week.
By Reuben Mees
Bellefontaine Examiner Staff Writer
30 January 2008
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