Commissioners hold public hearing on Green Acre Drive vacation request

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Richland County Engineer Adam Gove and an adjoining property owner say a right of way off North Stewart Road that has been designated as Green Acre Drive should not be vacated because it still can serve as access to a potential future development.

County commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday on a request by the Madison Township trustees and former Trustee Miles Hoehn to vacate the right of way, which has not been developed since it was platted in 1967.

Trustees voted in January to approve a resolution of intent to vacate Green Acres Drive, an unopened 60-foot wide by 165-foot long right of way, and forward the resolution to the commissioners for consideration. The land is next to the home of Hoehn, who asked for the vacation.

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He told trustees in January and Tuesday that the area has remained in grass and trees since it was platted and quoted a section of Ohio law, which states a road that has been unopened and undeveloped for seven years after the authority was granted shall be vacated.

Neighbors disagree on future of the drive

"The purpose of the law was so that public governments cannot take private land with the promise that they’re going to do something for the public and then never do it — just hold onto the land. That’s just what’s happened here,” he said Tuesday. “You have a road to nowhere that you can’t legally build as it is right now.”

Beal Road resident Jeff Stigall, who owns 31acres that would be accessed through Green Acres Drive, said he recently bought the property that had been owned by his father and is looking to cut the road and develop the land “not too far in the future.” He also accused Hoehn of blocking the use of the right of way several times over the last five years, including parking a motor home on the site.

“He tried, behind my dad’s back two times, to get this done without him even knowing it,” Stigall said. “That’s wrong. Now you’re going to deal with me, and I’m not going to put up with stuff like that.”

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Hoehn denied the allegations and said he offered to buy the property at the end of Green Acres but was rejected twice. He said he and Stigall's father had a good relationship and he has been mowing the right of way area at no charge for 15 years.

Hoehn speculated one of the reasons the tract had not been developed in 55 years was a change in regulations to require a larger minimum lot size to accommodate a septic system. He also pointed out there is 18 times more road frontage to that property from Beal Road than there is on Stewart Road.

“You have over a fifth of a mile of frontage on Beal Road. You have 60 feet on Stewart,” Hoehn said. “There are many ways you can develop that property without going over to Stewart Road.”

Commissioners weigh in neutrally, former trustee sides with 'as is'

Trustees Jim Houser and Cathy Swank attended the hearing. Swank said the board was neutral on the request and submitted the vacation request because they felt it was what state law required.

Former Trustee Dan Fletcher submitted a letter that was read into the record in which he said Green Acre Drive should remain “as is” because it is access to what he described as “prime acreage” in a residential neighborhood that could be developed and be a financial benefit to the township.

Richland County Engineer Adam Gove
Richland County Engineer Adam Gove

Gove also recommended the petition be denied. He noted in both a written report and public comment he reviewed the request and determined the right of way is the only access to the parcel, it is not part of a public highway system and was placed on “non-maintained” status in 2007.

Gove also pointed out the right of way was not a taking and keeping by the government but was established by a subdivision plat and turned over by the property owner.

Both Gove and local attorney Nick Atterholt, who was representing Stigall, indicated the right of way may be covered by a different section of Ohio law that deals with subdivisions.

Commissioners asked Amanda Middis, chief civil prosecutor for the Richland County Prosecutor’s Office, and County Administrator Andrew Keller to review the two sections of law and determine which applies to Green Acre Drive. They set 10:30 a.m. March 15 to review the formal opinion and make a decision on the vacation petition.

Commissioners approve new software for sheriff, jail

In other business, commissioners approved a contract with Aladtec Inc. of River Falls, Wisconsin, for payroll and scheduling software for the Sheriff’s Office and county jail operations. The four-year agreement calls for a series of one-year renewals at a cost of $10,296 per year.

Support Bureau Commander Capt. Jim Sweat said a new system is needed because the current software is not designed to deal with an organization that operates on a 42-day scheduling cycle on three shifts, seven days per week. He said the new system is paperless and can move operations forward in terms of dealing with overtime, compensatory time and rotating days off work.

“Basically you can get online and an employee can check their schedule from a phone or computer,” Sweat said. “They can check their schedule, request time off and our supervisors can approve it or disapprove it based both on manpower on the shift and manpower standards. That takes a burden off our payroll staff.”

Sweat said the new system also is able to transition information to the auditor’s computerized bookkeeping system. He pointed out that the contract is only about $1,000 more than for the current payroll program.

This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Richland commissioners hear comments on Green Acre Drive