A backlog of zoning issues was discussed during the Amelia Council meeting on Monday, March 15. According to administrative manager Julie Wartman, the village receives a number of calls each week regarding zoning issues and the small office staff does not have the ability to follow up on all the issues.
“We have calls coming in every day from people who need help and we don’t have the staff to investigate,” Wartman said. “We are using legal and engineering resources to help us come to conclusions about what to do.”
"Summer is approaching and we have pools that are not getting fences put up around them. It concerns me because of the safety of children," said Wartman.
Councilman Chuck Thacker remarked that if violations are filed, the village has an obligation to follow up.
"As long as we tell someone to fix the problem, we are not liable if they don't fix it," said Thacker.
"If we tell someone to fix a problem and we didn't go check to see if they did it, we are liable," said solicitor Laura Abrams. "We have a code that has been debated by council and put in place."
Mayor Leroy Ellington noted that the village has an obligation.
"If we don't have enough people to do the work, something will suffer," said Ellington. "We are not providing the best service to our residents."
The village currently pays $40 an hour for a zoning inspector to check new construction, but officials say they couldn't afford to have that inspector do the day-to-day zoning work that needs to be done.
"The village is missing out on revenue by not having someone to enforce zoning," said council woman Renee Gerber. "A zoning position could pay for itself through the issue of permits."
Wartman told council that she believes someone would need to work full-time initially to get caught up with the backlog of work. She also said she believed that the revenue to the village would amount to between $200 to $500 per week.
"In the village, we have what we would call 'soft reinforcement' and we're not seeking to add revenue through fines," said Ellington. "Citing people and giving tickets is a last resort."
Thacker said that he would like to see an end to zoning laws in the village. When asked by the mayor if he would be upset with his neighbor if he had a semi running under his bedroom window all night Thacker responded, "It's a free country and people should be able to do whatever they want on their own property."
"These zoning laws are in place and before someone moves here they can read our laws, if they don't like them, they don't have to move here. We do have zoning laws in the village and we need someone to enforce them," said councilman Todd Hart.
"We need a zoning person to do all zoning related issues," said Ellington. "More than just enforcement, there are a variety of duties."
Council members voted to begin the process to hire a part time zoning inspector to handle issues within the village. Abrams was asked to write a job description for the position and fiscal officer Bill Gilpin was asked to look at the possible ways to fund the position.