Friday, May 20th, 2022

Officials vote down short-term rental plan

By William Kincaid
CELINA - Mercer County commissioners on Thursday voted to deny a proposed amendment that would have restricted short-term rentals of dwellings in East Jefferson Township.
However, they indicated the issue needs to be addressed in the zoning code and said they plan to pursue their own set of text amendments "as expeditiously as possible with a target adoption date yet this fall," according to a news release signed by commissioners Jerry Laffin, Rick Muhlenkamp and Greg Homan.
"We are aware that this process has been a long journey. We can identify with your frustrations and the need for resolutions," the release reads. "It is vital that the amendments effectively provide a clear definition, regulations and the ability to enforce long-term."
All three commissioners moved to deny the county zoning commission's proposal in part due to "the limitations to text amendments," according to their resolution.
The amendment would have permitted short-term rentals as a conditional use in medium-density residential R-2 and high-density residential R-3 zoned areas as long as specific conditions were met and the proposed conditional use would not adversely effect neighboring properties. Short-term rentals would have been prohibited in low density residential R-1 zoned areas.
Commissioners had the option to adopt, deny or modify the proposed amendment. In considering testimonies provided on the amendments and a letter by the Mercer County Health District, the majority of commissioners sought to modify the proposed amendment "to strike a balance between parties," the resolution reads.
In that letter, district health commissioner Jason Menchhofer wrote that no local or state regulation grants the health district the authority to perform an interior inspection of a dwelling unless a public health nuisance originating within the dwelling is spreading to the outside.
Commissioners met with legal counsel to determine statutory limitations on modifications that could be made without beginning the process anew, the resolution states.
"Based on legal advice, many of the modifications under consideration would be considered a re-write. In other words, the amendments would need to go through the hearing process again," commissioners' release reads.
Commissioners in their resolution also noted the state Legislature has introduced House Bill 563 that proposes to limit local regulation of short-term rental of dwellings.
"The board will utilize resources to prepare and initiate proposed text amendments to the Mercer County Zoning Code," the resolution states. "House Bill 563 will be closely monitored to ensure compliance if signed into law. Upon completion of the proposed text amendments, they will be forwarded to the zoning commission for the first hearing."
Commissioners are the end decider of a multistep process that began last year after a group of local home-owners voiced opposition to the short-term rental of homes through online services such as VRBO and Airbnb. This set in motion a series of public hearings involving three county government commissions.
Homan at a public hearing earlier this month noted legal counsel is of the opinion that should the proposal be enacted, the health department does not have the authority or expertise to conduct inspections as stipulated in the proposed amendment. Also, existing short-term rentals would be grandfathered as a nonconforming use, Homan said of the legal opinion.
A familiar group of residents for and against short-term rentals who have voiced their opinions at past hearings showed up at the hearing to reiterate their stances.
Some people who have lived for many years in East Jefferson Township said they don't want to live next to properties that have a revolving door of temporary occupants. They cited alleged incidents of trespassing, excessive noise and other nuisances caused by renters.
Others who had purchased homes in the area as investment properties expressly for short-term rentals and their allies argued restricting the use of their homes would amount to a violation of their property rights, set a bad precedent and hamper lake tourism and commerce.
Additional online stories on this date
Algal toxins above safety threshold
The public has been advised to avoid all contact with water at the four public beaches on Grand Lake after tests detected unsafe algal toxins, according to notices released by the Ohio Department of Health. [More]
Schmitz ties own strikeout record as Redskins beat Flyers
ST. HENRY - St. Henry's Nolan Schmitz tied his own school record with 16 strikeouts and allowed just one ball out of the infield in a 2-0 victory over Marion Local in the Division IV sectional final Thursday at the Wally Post Athletic Complex. [More]
Subscriber and paid stories on this date
Farmers, motorists need to demonstrate courtesy
As the planting season moves ahead at full steam, everyday motorists have begun sharing the road with tractors and other farm equipment.
Jamie Hamp
MINSTER - Councilors this week awarded a $5.08 million contract to a Texas company to build a larger water storage tank, another step toward replacing the village's aging 250,000-gallon water tower on Ohio Street.
CELINA - Democrats will need to unite as a party to take back democracy in the November general election and improve Ohio for the next generation, state and local Democrats said at the Mercer County Democrats Equality Dinner at the Celina Eagles Thursday night.
CELINA - Mercer County Educational Service Center has been awarded a $100,000 grant for school safety and security upgrades, the first such award the office has received.
LIMA - From the second inning on, St. Marys was watching Bath's taillights.
The Wildkittens took advantage of the backups in the infield and put St
MINSTER - With Wednesday's rainout raising the possibility of tournament games on back-to-back days, Minster needed a solid pitching outing on Thursday to help keep the bullpen fresh should the Wildcats advance.
Area Roundup
Compiled by Gary R. Rasberry
Apollo Thomas and Roman Leszinske combined to hold Bluffton to six hits as Parkway advanced in the Division III sectional baseball tournament with a 7-3 win over the Pirates on Thursday.