Monday, January 25, 2016

CJER Planning Consultant States That Objective of 2014 Ordinance Amendments Was to Make Definitions The Same Across Townships

Planning Consultant Carson Helfrich drafted the original 2004 Eldred Township zoning ordinance.  He apparently also drafted all the CJER ordinance changes and amendments that were adopted in 2014.  He was the "detail guy" who made everything fit together and could probably tell anyone who asked, without looking, what effect a proposed change would have.  There were literally hundreds of changes made to align the ordinances across CJER in 2014, but the minutes of CJER and the Eldred Township planners do not reflect the changes were being discussed in detail by these bodies.

As the "detail guy" one might expect to find a lot of interaction between Mr. Helfrich with the townships and/or CJER in the year or two prior to ordinance adoption.  It is hard to find meetings of Eldred Township or CJER planners, at which Mr. Helfrich appeared and the long term effort to align ordinances was discussed.  Perhaps this is due to the objective of the 2014 updates being to not make substantive changes to the ordinances, but rather to come up with identical definitions and regional uses.

While Mr. Helfrich appeared at the March 27, 2014 CJER meeting, at which no vote was taken, he did not appear at the May 1, 2014 hearing at which all the changes were voted on.  The detail guy was not present to answer questions that may have been raised by supervisors or audience members at this very important meeting.  Perhaps it would not have made a difference, because as I wrote earlier today, officials at both of these meetings led the audience to believe that no changes of zoning would occur.  Yet at least one land use change did.

At the April 27, 2014 CJER meeting, Mr. Helfrich spoke about how:

  1. The CJER municipalities adopted a regional comprehensive plan to work "cooperatively on their zoning ordinances."
  2. A primary goal is to allot uses around the municipalities, instead of each having to provide for all uses. Identical definitions allows for this.
  3. Most of the changes being made to the ordinances are to come up with common terms and definitions.
  4. Definitions were made to be consistent.
March 27, 2014 transcript of Mr. Helfrich's comments re: objectives of updates

What is very odd, and troubling, is that Mr. Helfrich did not mention that the Edlred Township water extraction amendment that he had drafted within the last few days and had in possession that night would violate the principals that guided his and CJER's work over months and possibly over a year.  The ordinance that was to have been voted on that night defined water extraction identically across all the townships.  Mr. Helfrich's draft amendment changed the definition in Eldred Township.  Not one peep from Mr. Helfrich to warn CJER members and the CJER solicitor that the amendment was counter to their collective collaborative efforts.  Also, that a land use change would result - a major change.  Mr. Helfrich should have known both of these facts off the top of his head when the change was proposed to him.  Did Mr. Helfrich warn CJER after the March 27 meeting about these problems?  CJER cancelled its April meeting, so they didn't meet to discuss it.  There is nothing in the CJER minutes to reflect he brought this to their attention.  Then, on May 1, the amendment was passed with no discussion at all about the fact it added a use not previously permitted, and that the use in Eldred Township would be uniquely defined.

The result of the amendment that Mr. Helfrich drafted, without apparent feedback to CJER or Eldred supervisors, is seen at the link below.  On each page, one for each township, there are three definitions that were adopted at the May 1 meeting.  They are identical across townships, with the exception of water extraction in Eldred Township.  What you don't see is that "manufacturing, light" is a permitted use in the Commercial districts, and "industry" is a permitted use in the Industrial districts.  The author of the original ordinance and the proposed ordinance, intimately familiar with it, should have known without looking that this definition change would cause a change of use.  You just could not make this up

See the unique definition of water extraction in Eldred Township

How the water extraction amendment came into being is a sordid tale, which will be described in a future post.

Addendum 6:15 PM Light manufacturing and industrial operations are distinguished in land use by one or more characteristics.  Generally, industrial operations may be more hazardous, like chemical processing or storage, create more pollution like particulates, or have more of an impact on the area through bulk operations like plastics recycling.  Water extraction qualifies as an industrial operation, since it involves the bulk movement of water by numerous tractor trailers daily.  In the case of Eldred Township and Nestle, this will be a truck every 17 minutes from 6AM to 11PM, seven days a week.

It makes no sense in any community to have a use that is considered light manufacturing in one region, and industrial in another, which is what the water extraction amendment did.  Furthermore, CJER's goal was to create consistent definitions and regional uses.  It is impossible for a use to be regional if the use has more than one definition.

Addendum 1/26 10:45 AM When I met with CJERP member and Chestnuthill planner Matt Neeb on December 10, 2015, who formerly was a senior planner at the Monroe County Planning Commission, I suggested that it was unacceptable within CJER(P) for a use to be considered light manufacturing in one township, and industrial in the others.  His reply was "we'll have to agree to disagree."  He also observed that Eldred Township residents were at both the March and May 2014 CJER meetings (true), which I assume was to imply that Eldred residents had ample opportunity to learn about the water extraction amendment.  But they didn't have the opportunity to learn about or question and a change of use, because they were not informed that a change of use would occur.  How can you ask for more details about something you don't even know about?  The people in attendance were told zoning was not changing, and these were minor definition changes.  You just could not make this shit up.

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