Council rejects ag zoning request

By David J. Coehrs -

A Wauseon couple’s request to have an agricultural district created for 129 acres of farmland within the city was rejected Monday by City Council.

By a unanimous vote, Council members waived three readings and accepted on emergency a recommendation by the city’s Buildings and Grounds Committee to deny a renewable five-year application filed by Craig and Brenda Myers. The couple sought a zoning change for their city-annexed parcel at State Route 108 and North Ottokee Street as protection against agricultural nuisance lawsuits.

At a March 25 public hearing, Craig Myers said he purchased the land, which has been used since 1980 to raise crops, from his family a year ago. He said the property is available for sale but he wants to continue farming it until that status may change. Myers said he has no plans to raise livestock on the acreage, and is willing to modify the application to comply with city standards.

He said no complaints have been lodged against the farm property in the past decade.

The farmland is currently designated under non-conforming use. The city’s options were to approve, modify or reject the Myers’ application.

A statement from the committee read by Councilor Harold Stickley before the vote noted: “Given the property is in town, we did not feel that preventing folks who live in town from being able to bring a nuisance action would be appropriate or fair…It is our view that protection against nuisance actions may have a place outside the municipality, but not within our city limits.”

Stickley added that the committee voted against the application because “we didn’t find modifying would be any benefit.”

The statement also said granting the application would violate the city’s zoning code “because it would serve to encourage rather than discourage the non-conforming use of the land as farm ground.” The statement said approving the application would not serve Wauseon’s and Fulton County’s comprehensive development plans, both which discourage agricultural growth in the city.

Other reasons given for opposing the Myers’ application were protection against eminent domain and the possibility that, at some point, livestock could be raised on the land.

Mayor Kathy Huner previously argued that creating the agricultural district within city limits violated the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning code. On Monday, she said the committee’s research on the subject seemed to verify her position.

City Council also approved the Buildings and Grounds Committee recommendation to install a sign for Faith Baptist Church on an existing Linfoot Street sign cluster. The sign will point in the direction of the church’s location at 15879 County Road F.

In a Park Board report, Councilor Rick Frey said approved 2019 budget items include sealing and striping the Dorothy B. Biddle Park parking lot and sealing the park’s walking path; milling and repaving the community swimming pool parking lot; repairing, resurfacing, and resealing Reighard Park tennis courts; and placing processed wood fiber around city playground equipment.

Frey said the city has begun a three-week project to construct an open-air pavilion at Reighard Park. And he reminded the council that a fishing derby for children will be held April 27 at Rotary Park.

Reporting for the city’s Tree Commission, Frey said Ohio Buckeye seedlings will be planted in North, South, Homecoming, and Reighard parks. He also said Arbor Day celebrations will be held April 26 at the city’s primary and elementary schools.

In department reports:

•Public Service Director Dennis Richardson said the community swimming pool will open for the season Memorial Day, May 27. Admission that day will be free.

• Law Director Tom McWatters III said the Wauseon Rotary Club voted to officially name the walking trail created adjacent to Homecoming Park the Indian Hills Trails. He said a wooden sign bearing the name will be installed.

In new business, Huner said Fire Chief Rick Sluder is one of three Ohio fire chiefs selected by the state fire marshal to attend congressional hearings this month in Washington, D.C.

By David J. Coehrs

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.