Permitting contract goes to council

At Marietta City Council’s regular meeting Thursday the new permitting contract between the city and Washington County was introduced, but no further action was taken pending more discussion about permitting fees scheduled for next week.

“If this passes it will be in effect immediately,” said Councilwoman Sarah Snow, chair of council’s Planning, Zoning and Annexation Committee. “But until we discuss and pass a fee schedule alongside it, we will not be able to take care of these permits within the city.”

Snow’s committee is scheduled to discuss the fee schedule for permitting at 6:45 p.m. Thursday in Room 10 of the Armory, 241 Front St.

Currently the city handles access, driveway, right-of-way, sewer and water tap, and land development permits. If the contract is approved by council, new duties would include the issuance of zoning, use, occupancy and demolition permits.

The county would continue to issue residential building permits, commercial building permits and flood development permits within its Southeast Ohio Building Department. For building permits, a resident or business will be referred first to the city to ascertain if zoning would conflict with the intended build.

Mayor Joe Matthews also notified council that headway has been made concerning the home at 829 Front St., parts of which collapsed three weeks ago.

“I’ve been working with a buyer to purchase that property,” said Matthews. “It’s expected to close next week and that buyer plans to do the demolition himself at no cost to the city.”

Matthews said the buyer did not wish to be named until the sale had closed.

This movement will be one of the first seen this year and will be followed by recommendations by council’s ad hoc blight committee which also met Thursday.

The committee, which is made up of Bryan Waller, Kathy Boersma, Bill Standish, Bill Gossett and Susan Boyer, outlined both a mission statement and goals at its meeting.

The mission: To identify current residential problems within the city of Marietta and make recommendations to the city on how to solve them.

Specific goals of the committee are to determine the process by which properties are currently identified as having maintenance issues that impact the health and safety of residents (and) make suggestions where the process might be improved; to determine the scope of (blight within the city) including demographic information, ownership statistics, mapping and other data correlation to help highlight the areas where action would have the most impact; and to determine the current remedial steps available to the city and make suggestions where necessary.

“My idea is that we pull this information together as quickly as we can so we can move forward,” said Boyer, the committee’s appointed chair. “The thing we need to remember is there’s a statutory process for condemnation and repossession, but we need to help identify homes before they get so far that that’s necessary action.”

The committee also appointed Standish as its secretary and outlined action items for committee members to look into prior to its next meeting at 5:30 p.m. on March 9 in room 10 of the Armory.

Prior to that meeting Boyer plans to look into remedial steps such as a possible county-city partnership land bank to repossess blighted houses. Gossett plans to speak with representatives from Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District and from the Washington County auditor’s office to compile ownership statistics and demographic information within city limits. Boersma said that she would reach out to the city’s code enforcement officer, Wayne Rinehart to understand how he has and will follow up on complaints of blight.

“It would also be nice if (Rinehart) was the only person authorized to take photos and confront residents about issues with their homes,” said Gossett. “Rather than harassment by members of council.”

The committee also considered three items concerning housing and blight introduced to council by Rinehart last week concerning fees for blighted homes, uncut grass and a proposed new residential rental housing property registry. With suggested amendments, the committee approved of each potential legislation. The suggestions will be considered at a future Planning, Zoning and Annexation Committee.