One of the key arguments against zoning that many opponents make is that it takes away a person’s rights, giving more control to the government.
But, zoning creates a hierarchal structure that is kept in check by the courts and actually gives a property owner more rights than they had without zoning, said Gil Blair, a Weathersfield trustee and Brookfield’s attorney. He spoke at the Brookfield Township Zoning Commission’s June 19 public hearing, and the township trustees’ July 23 public hearing.
“Once you get into the zoning, there is an appeals process,” Blair said. “You have a zoning board and a zoning board of appeals. If you don’t like the decision of those, you appeal to the court of common pleas. If you don’t like the decision of that, you can appeal to the 11th District Court of Appeals, then you move on to the Ohio Supreme Court. The bottom line is there’s likely not going to be too many new issues coming up in Brookfield Township that haven’t already been decided by the court somewhere else. That’s going to be taken into consideration at the first level. “
The Ohio Revised Code offers “a whole lot of protection, page after page on zoning on what townships can do and not do,” Blair said. “The Ohio Supreme Court has a history of really cracking down if a zoning regulation goes too far.”
That hierarchal process is something many people fear, said zoning opponent Jason Nicholson.
“If you think about Brookfield and the way it’s been and the way I’ve known it, it’s more a clique and popularity thing, and, if someone don’t like you on the board, you’re not going to get it,” Nicholson said, speaking of a variance or other positive consideration.
“I agree, there was a lot of politics,” said zoning commission Chairman Todd Fencyk.
But, if the politics hinder the administration of zoning, “there’s a way to get rid of it,” Fencyk said. “You can vote it out. There’s provisions for all of that” in the zoning resolution.
Zoning is much more flexible than opponents give it credit for, said commission alternate member Leyla Sartori, a part-time zoning and code enforcement officer in Sharon.
“It’s not that zoning’s saying, ‘You can’t do this no matter what,’” Sartori said. “There are some options for some other things.”
She said she has seen zoning appeals boards grant variances in some instances when a property owner wanted to, say, build a garage, but could not meet the zoning ordinance requirements.
“It’s not like zoning is this horrible thing and everybody’s miserable with it,” she said. “It works very well.”
Brookfield Township Zoning Commission meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the Brookfield Township Administration Building, 6844 Strimbu Drive.