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Zone of change: Zoning Board to send recommendation regarding variance

November 29, 2011

Changes to the notification process for variances and non-conforming use requests likely will fall onto the shoulders of Wapakoneta City Council members.
Wapakoneta Zoning Board of Appeals members decided Monday a letter will be written in the next few weeks to councilors expressing their desire on proceeding with the fees and the notification process in an effort to cut costs for the city.
After Monday’s meeting at the Wapakoneta City Administration Building, Zoning Board of Appeals member Russ Slonecker said he will discuss those issues with Zoning Board of Appeals President Dale Thomas, who could not be present at Monday’s meeting, on how the board would like to proceed.
“I am going to talk with Dale Thomas and we will make a decision on how we want to proceed whether or not we want to approach council about revising the notification parameters or if we want to raise the fees to cover the costs to notify residents,” Slonecker told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “I will talk to Dale about changing the notification parameters for both a variance and for a change of use and we will decide on what we will propose to council.”
The Zoning Board of Appeals has the power to change the fee associated with a request to cover the costs of notification. Wapakoneta City Council is the legislative body which is entrusted with the power to make the change to an ordinance in regard to the notification parameters. The notification parameter is part of the city’s building code.
On Jan. 1, the notification process for variances and non-conforming use, or a change of use, expanded from adjacent properties to a 250-foot radius. This added extra costs to the city’s certified mailing costs and research by Engineering Department personnel.
The fee for a variance or non-conforming use change is $200, falling short of the $400 the city pays for research by personnel, a legal notice and notification of property owners in an affected area. Under the new notification process, the average number of letters climbed to 40 letters from an average of four.
Wapakoneta 3rd Ward Councilor Bonnie Wurst, who chairs the Lands and Buildings Committee, wrote a letter which was read Monday to Zoning Board of Appeals members that her committee would not likely meet before the end of the year to decide the matter and they would like the Zoning Board of Appeals recommendation.
Slonecker said their recommendation would likely be ready after the first of the year.
At the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting in August, Wapakoneta Engineering Department Supervisor Mary Ruck proposed maintaining notifying property owners in a 250-foot radius for a non-conforming use and limiting the notification process for variances, which typically affects adjacent property owners.
During the August meeting, Thomas explained the reason behind the Zoning Board of Appeals considering a change was because Engineering Department personnel “received so many complaints from residents who receive letters on variances they don’t care about and they feel it is a waste of city money.”
Mayor Rodney Metz echoed Wurst’s thoughts and said they could present their recommendation to Wurst or to him to present to councilors.
Metz, who was present at the meeting, said he would be willing to present the letter to council on the Zoning Board of Appeal’s behalf.

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