Sunday, January 24, 2016

Transcripts of 2014 CJER Meetings to Consider and Pass Amendments Show Officials Stated That No Change to Zoning Would Occur

The Regional Planning body CJER, of which Eldred Township is a member, met on March 27, 2014 to pass a comprehensive zoning ordinance update of definitions, and the creation of regional uses.  The ordinances were not voted on that night due to Ross Township not being ready.  Planning Consultant Carson Helfrich, who prepared the ordinance changes, had additional amendments in hand this evening that had not been advertised, including the water extraction amendment.

The transcript of the March meeting shows that state representative and CJER Vice Chairman Jack Rader stated that "the zoning ordinance does not change in your township" - only that regional uses were being created. He added, "it's not like we've upended everything in the township."

Eldred supervisor Gretchen Gannon Pettit stated "our zoning doesn't change," and "it's terminology, it's definitions.  None of our zoning is changing - none."  The same as Mr. Rader, she stated the change is "shared uses".  CJER Chairman Chuck Gould spoke of the importance of consistency in definitions and common definitions in managing land use.
Mr. Rader & Ms. Gannon Pettit's comments on left, Mr. Gould's on right

The May 1, 2014 CJER meeting, where the ordinances and amendments were voted on, Planning Consultant Carson Helfrich did not attend.  Solicitor Fareri addressed the additional amendments that Helfrich had in hand at the March 27 CJER meeting.  Mr. Fareri stated for the benefit of members of the public "They're not - they are minor corrections to what was originally advertised (for March 27).  There were no major changes, some of it is technical in nature."  Ms. Solt, when asked by Mr. Fareri if there was anything to discuss with members of Eldred Township, replied "nothing".

Ms. Solt and Mr. Fareri's comments

The four pages of amendments that Mr. Fareri described as "minor" are shown here (click)

Suffice it to say, members of the public would walk away from both the March and May 2014 CJER meetings assuming that there were no changes of land use.  Only that definitions had been made consistent, and regional uses established.  But this is not true - the amendments included the water extraction amendment, which added a use considered industrial throughout CJER (and more importantly Eldred Township), to the Commercial zoning district in Eldred Township only.  The onus is on the administrative body to describe amendments in sufficient detail for citizens to know what effect they will have - not on members of the public to sift through the existing ordinance, and figure it out individually by themselves.  In the May meeting, Mr. Gould (CJER Chairman) asks "One last time, are there any questions from the audience at all?"  How can the public ask questions when they aren't presented with the consequences of a proposed amendment?  The result here is what happens when procedures aren't followed - procedures prescribed by statute meant to prevent precisely this kind of result.

There is much more of interest associated with Planning Consultant Carson Helfrich - the "professional" who drafted the change in question, the transcripts, and how the water extraction amendment came into being.  That will be covered in another post.

Note: complete transcripts are not to be copied or distributed, but select pages may be, per the court stenographer.  The underlining was added by the editor for ease of identification.

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