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Council reviews zoning law

On Wednesday, Marietta City Council’s Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Committee reviewed language in a draft request for qualifications letter penned by the city law director.

The meeting was a follow-up public discussion began last week following the repeated call for review of city planning and zoning codes for more than a year as multiple business owners, consulting firms and development representatives have brought into the public eye concern for navigability of city law.

Last week, the same committee discussed a drafted request for qualifications letter penned by Law Director Paul Bertram, to contract outside aid in reviewing present city code and adding/modifying where needed to bring up to date the more than 50-page section of the city’s “green book” of laws to not only comply with updated state and federal regulations, but also those of the city’s past adoption of the International Property Maintenance Code and overlapping enforcement concerns within city departments as raised by Safety-Service Director Steve Wetz at the committee’s April 8 meeting.

“We’ve had an awakening within the last month with some issues that have occurred on Colegate Drive,” Wetz explained last week. “The engineering department does not have the time nor the people to be working on zoning enforcement … We believe that we need to get an outside consultant to review the zoning code, to update definitions and use in the (city codified ordinances) book.”

Wednesday’s review of the drafted letter, which eventually is expected to be presented to the full legislative body, included the committee members’ expectation of review of the entire Part 11 of the city codified ordinances which regulate both planning and zoning codes, proper uses within those zones and penalties for improper and/or non-compliant use.

The committee, chaired by Councilman Geoff Schenkel, is also made up of Councilwoman Susan Boyer (a retired Washington County Common Pleas judge) and Councilman Bill Gossett who is also a private business owner in downtown Marietta.

“I don’t know that I put it in here, and I’m not trying to start a war but what about signs?” asked Bertram in follow-up on Wednesday after accepting edits and questions from Boyer and Schenkel concerning scope.

Both Boyer and Schenkel confirmed the need for sign regulation to be included as one of the topics of concern to be reviewed in the qualifications of a consulting firm.

“We’ve talked about signs forever and put it off to do this whole update so absolutely,” Boyer said. “We obviously need that … but I think we could talk not just about signs, but signs and other uses, permanent signs and other uses of the city right of way.”

According to the current Marietta city codified ordinances Part 11, signs do have four outlined zoning restrictions; two based on location and size when erected within either a residential area (1103.10)(a) or commercial and manufacturing districts (1103.10)(b).

The remaining two restrictions specifically note the use of sandwich signs (1103.10)(c) and the erection of billboards, ground mount, ground graphics and off-premises signs as outlined in subsection “d” of that same section of the chapter as passed on Dec. 6, 2001, by Ordinance 280 of that legislative cycle.

“Billboards, ground mount signs, ground graphics, and off-premises signs may be erected only in commercial and manufacturing zoned districts under the limitations imposed by Section 1103.10(c) hereof and only when authorized as a Special Permit use by the Planning Commission, when the commission is satisfied the contemplated use is not in conflict with the general purposes and character of the zoning district.”

Included within those restrictions are notes of size restriction and surface area, and the subsequent section noting accessory structures outlines setback minimums.

According to the present code, sign regulation is not limited to what happens within or is erected upon city right-of-way.

The conclusion of the zoning regulation also outlines the timeframe for when notice of violation shall be provided by the city engineer, and concludes in 1141.99 that “whoever violates any provision of this chapter or the terms and conditions of any permit issued under this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree and shall be fined not more than $250.00 or imprisoned not more than thirty days or both. Whenever such person shall have been notified by service of summons in a prosecution, or notified in any other way by the city engineer that he is committing such violation of this zoning ordinance, each day that he shall continue such violation after such notification shall constitute a separate offense punishable by a like fine or penalty. Such fine or penalty shall be collected as like fines or penalties are now by law collected.”

The city code notes that the penalty was also most recently adopted in December of 2001.

According to Bertram, Wednesday’s discussion will not produce specific legislation to be introduced tonight at council’s regular business meeting at 7:30 p.m., but instead for council’s May 6 meeting at the same time.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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