Monday, March 23, 2015

North Canton City Council Denies Citizens Appeal Hearing and Removes Zoning Code Protections for Citizens

Prepared Comments Made to
March 23, 2015
            Twelve years ago, City Council ratified a total rewrite of the City’s Zoning Code. The vote was unanimous for passage. Two current members of Council were among the seven who voted for passage, Doug Foltz and Marcia Kiesling.
            Codified in the zoning code for the last twelve years is Chapter 1177.11, which is titled APPEAL TO COUNCIL. Written in plain English, Chapter 1177.11 states: 

Any person who is adversely affected by a decision made by the Planning Commission according to the procedures set forth in this Chapter may appeal such decision to Council within 30 days of the Planning Commission's decision.  Council shall establish appropriate rules and procedures to hear and decide such appeals. 

            On October 10, 2014, City residents impacted by the expansion of the Hoover District South Parking Lot appealed a Planning Commission approval of a “Conditional Use” permit that allowed the developers to greatly expand the parking lot. The appeal was made prior to commencement of construction. Typically, an appeal would be heard in a timely manner to be fair to all parties. This has not been the case.  

            Midway through the thirty-days allowed for submission of an appeal, the City asked that the appeal be resubmitted. The second appeal was resubmitted within the required 30 days. 

            On December 1, 2014, and without a hearing date yet set, City Council passed an emergency resolution transferring the appeal to the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals. This was followed by another emergency resolution on January 12, 2015, rescinding the earlier emergency resolution. 

            Despite the long delay, it was thought that Council would at some point follow the law and allow citizens a hearing on the appeal that is clearly guaranteed in the City’s Zoning Code.   

            Sadly, North Canton City Council is refusing to allow an appeal hearing. Not now, not ever!  

On February 23, 2015, Resolution No.  2-2015 received the first of three readings dismissing the appeal. 

Tonight Resolution No. 2-2015 is on the agenda for its third and final reading.  

City Council’s action denying an appeal hearing is one of the most flagrant actions of a group of elected representatives I have ever seen in my lifetime. Clearly, there is no sense of duty or obligation to the public they have sworn to represent. 

Sadly, for North Canton citizens, their elected representatives are going to outdo themselves in their anti-citizen actions.  

Also on the agenda tonight is the 2nd reading of Ordinance No. 17-2015. This ordinance seeks to remove entirely from the City’s Zoning Code, any chance of Appeal to Council that is delineated in Chapter 1177.11. If successful, City Council will never again have to deal with the citizen protections that have been in the Code for over thirteen years.  

Chapter 1177.11 of the zoning code is a safety net for citizens who believe that they have been adversely affected by decisions made by the Planning Commission. It allows for appeals directly to their elected representatives. 

Mr. Griffith, at the Council meeting of February 23, 2015, stated, “…The decision about whether to do something when it comes to zoning or whether or not to do something shouldn’t be a political issue.” 

I beg to differ. Our entire process of government is political. How do you think you have come to sit on this council body? You are elected by the people through a political process. And on taking office you have taken an oath to represent the people. Council action refusing an appeal hearing and removing the right by citizens to appeal to Council is not representing your constituency. 

In regards to the removal of the appeal process you stated, “…one of the reasons that we are taking that appeal away [is] because those decision shouldn’t be political decisions.” 

How do you think the zoning code came to be in the first place? The Planning Commission did not craft the code. It was Council through a political process.  

North Canton’s City Charter states, “The Planning Commission shall have the powers as may be conferred on it by ordinance of Council….” 

The citizens of North Canton should be able to trust that their elected representatives are making decisions for them.  

Your statements at that February 23, 2015, meeting turn democracy upside down and put citizens at the mercy of unelected officials of the Planning Commission. 

This council should act like representatives of the people and quit acting like pawns of the City Law Director. Comply with the City’s Zoning Code as it is presently written.  

Give your constituents a hearing and discontinue removal of citizen protections that have been put in the City’s Zoning Code. They were put there for good reasons.

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne, Resident
City of North Canton