Zoning discusses ramps
By Matt Echelberry
Also during the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Dec. 11 meeting, five members of Galion Rotary Club were present to discuss recent problems it has encountered with the city. The charges and oversight required by the Zoning Code are interfering with the time constraints for construction of the ramps.
Galion Rotary has been building handicap ramps for disabled, impoverished people since 1926. (In recent years it has partnered with the Crawford County Crippled Children’s Society for the initiative.) The group now faces permit fees charged by the city and oversight they call “impractical.”
Rotarian Dennis Crim said they are not opposed to inspections, but Rotary does not want to pass the fees onto the people they serve because most of them have very limited income or face staggering medical bills.
He further added that one ramp was redesigned by city recently and the specifications for the revised version would have ended the ramp in the street. The club now needs to submit a drawing before they start, which Crim said is difficult to do because they try to deliver ramps as quickly as possible and sometimes the details on setback distance for a particular project are not known until the project begins.
Commissioner Bob Cerar responded that the city’s Building and Zoning Department is concerned with safety, which is the reason for oversight in general. He advised that the club does need some kind of a plan when it wants to install a ramp.
Building Inspector Matt Ross explained that once a plan is drawn, it is NOT set in stone. His department works with builders through changes that occur throughout a project, which he said happens all the time. He emphasized that a plan needs to be approved, but it can be changed later.
Crim argued that the ramps are free floating with no posts in the ground. Also, throughout the successful decades of ramp building, volunteers are careful to avoid the street, neighboring houses, water lines, hydrants, electric poles, etc.
“These are temporary structures. Why can’t they be exempt from these setbacks? Relieves some of the pressure on Matt [Ross] and helps the people in need,” Rotarian Dave Dayne commented.
The Commission did empathize with the Rotary’s efforts and the time constraints of its projects. Several Commissioners expressed a desire to help. “We desperately want to work with anybody who’s putting stuff like this together. We will work on streamlining the ordinance,” Cerar stated.
Ross added that he understands the dilemma and the city is trying to expedite the process the application process.
As far as fees are concerned, Cerar noted that is a City Council issue. He added: “Matt [Ross] has been the one who has been trying to lower the costs of these kinds of things and making it so you can build ramps closer to setbacks…but he must also follow the law.”
Oversight of handicap ramps will be discussed further at the Commission’s January meeting.
In another item of business, Avita Health Systems recently requested a rezoning of the Health Services District, in the area where Galion Community Hospital is located. A public hearing regarding the rezoning was held that evening.
Dan Seckel, an architect representing Avita, commented that the primary reason for the request was the hospital being approached about starting a dialysis clinic. The rezoning, which would incorporate more land along the Olentangy River, could also potentially be used to create more doctors’ offices and an oncology center.
No one from the audience spoke during the hearing. After a brief discussion, Commissioner Chuck Miller moved to approve the request and the motion passed. The Commission’s recommendation will go to the Planning, Zoning and Utilities Committee, followed by two public hearings before being presented to City Council for final approval.
Next, there was a request from Charles Smith to open a recycling center in Galion, on a property located on State Route 309 and Charles Street, where he has an agreement with the current landowner to purchase said land if the Commission approved his request. The request was for the full lot, but Smith noted he does not intend to use all of it. He also had a site plan to present to the Commission.
Currently, Smith operates a recycling center in Morrow County. He said he is compliant with EPA regulations and the new center he intends to open in Galion would not be a salvage yard. It would accept ferous and non-ferous material, which the business would cut and bale. He said nothing would be visible from the road.
Building Inspector Matt Ross had no concerns. After some questions, the Commission approved the request.