Ohio House Bill 601 Strongly Opposed by Montpelier Council

250px-Montpelier_Ohio_Main_Street_SundayMontpelier’s Director of Finance Kelly Hephner continued to voice her objection to Ohio House Bill 601, a bill that if passed would strongly limit the village’s ability to collect taxes for the town. It would have a devastating effect on the town’s economy. This was among several issues discussed at the meeting held on Monday, January 28, 2013.

Council opened the meeting with a public hearing on a Farmland Renewal Application, but as no village residents were present for the hearing, council continued with their regular business. Council approved the meeting agenda, December’s minutes, and the December 2012 financial reports.

The Farmland Renewal Application, concerning farmland property located at the corner of State Route 576 and Brown Road (also known as the Haines farm), was discussed. As the acreage is located within village limits, council must vote every five years to continue to allow it to be used for agricultural purposes. The application was submitted by James and Kristin Strong of Archbold, Ohio, who have farmed the land. Council member Ric Echler expressed concerns that the property could be used for other purposes, such as a dairy farm, for example, but an existing village ordinance already provides for discussion of animal permits for farm animals within village limits. Regardless, any such action would still have to go through council.

Director of Finance Kelly Hephner stated that budget meetings have begun and are scheduled to continue all next week. A completed and written budget proposal will be provided to the council within a few days of completion, with a date of February 9 projected as a completion date. The budget must be approved before the end of March. Council will meet at a later date to read and discuss the budget.

Council discussed their opposition to HB 601. On the table was a resolution opposing the passage of the bill. Hephner explained that in the resolution, council is specific about what they don’t like about the bill and they give advice on what needs to be done. Hephner explained that the bill as proposed will “cut the legs out” of income taxes, and would cost the village hundreds of thousands of dollars. It takes away the ability for “home rule,” and that as currently written is “death” to the village. She further explained that the proposed changes will “strap our community” and that “we want to make sure that they make dramatic changes” to the bill. “They need to know that we are not happy with what they are (thinking of) doing.”  If the bill would pass as currently written, it could have devastating effects on services within the village such as maintaining a fire or police department. The village “cannot sustain” its services if the bill is passed.

Mayor Steve Yagelski added that he anticipates a “grass roots” letter writing campaign. He explained that should the bill pass, “with the lack of funding, small town USA is going to dry up.” Eighty percent of Ohio is rural. Hephner added that even large cities would lose millions of dollars. Many villages and cities across Ohio are in the process of passing similar resolutions to oppose the bill. It is opposed by the Ohio Municipal League and the Northwest Ohio Mayors and Managers executive committee, among others. After discussing the issue, council voted on and approved Resolution 1035, “a resolution to strongly oppose the passage of HB 601 or its successor unless dramatically changed by the Ohio General Assembly which proposes uniformity measures for municipal income tax in the form of unfunded mandates and a substantial loss of revenue, and declaring an emergency.”

In other business, council approved the first reading of Ordinance 2151 to amend section 1157.10 for permitted uses in the C-3 (business) district of the planning and zoning code. This ordinance adds to a subsection of the codified ordinance and states that no dwelling shall be located on the first floor in the central business district. This change to the ordinance has been ongoing for three or four years. The ordinance does allow for current dwellers to be grandfathered in under the ordinance. A discussion on this ordinance was to be heard during the public hearing prior to the meeting, but no residents had attended.

Council also gave the first reading of Ordinance 2152 to amend section 1157.12 concerning development standards of the planning and zoning code. This ordinance addresses changes which address stairwells in the downtown central business district. Stairwells will need to have a door with a locking mechanism, at least one light and a window of a specified size. There must be a clear, unobstructed view into the stairwell. Any new doors installed must abide by this code. This ordinance will provide increased safety in stairwells.

Following an executive session to discuss personnel, the meeting was adjourned. The regular council meeting which had been scheduled for February 11 is cancelled due to a lack of quorum. Several council members will be out of town on that date, and without a required number of members, council cannot address ordinances and resolutions. The next council meeting will be held on February 25, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. in the meeting room of the police station.

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