Bexley City Council is considering legislation that would limit who can file appeals to council challenging Bexley Planning Commission decisions.
The legislation, labeled Ordinance 33-14, would limit appeals to applicants, abolishing current legislation that allows anyone, including those who do not reside in Bexley, to appeal Bexley Planning Commission decisions.
Councilman Steve Keyes, chairman of council's Zoning and Development Committee, introduced the first reading of the legislation at council's May 27 meeting.
Keyes said the legislation is designed to correct a clerical error made when council passed Second Amended Ordinance 41-08 in 2008. That ordinance combined the Planning Commission and Main Street Redevelopment Commission into one body, "but did not specify who had the right of the appeal," Ordinance 33-14 states.
Keyes said the discussion limiting Planning Commission appeals only to residents originated during council's retreat in March.
"It's a mistake in the code, pure and simple," he said. "It's just a dumb drafting mistake that inadvertently opened up this whole area of appeals to us. We agreed that we have to fix this mistake."
Mayor Ben Kessler, who was a council member when council approved Ordinance 41-08, said the 2008 legislation could force the city to spend taxpayer dollars on exorbitant legal fees to defend Planning Commission appeals from non-applicants.
"There is no other community that has a standard where non-applicants can file (appeals)," Kessler said. "Right now we have a wide-open process."
Councilman Tim Madison said he has concerns that the legislation under consideration could be unfair to residents who wish to appeal Planning Commission decisions that impact their properties.
"I'm not sure I'm comfortable with saying to our residents ... that your only recourse, if you don't like a decision, is to file a complaint in (Franklin County) Common Pleas Court," Madison said.
Sherwood Road resident Randy Waddell is one of the residents who filed an appeal with council to challenge the Planning Commission's May 19 approval of a new mixed-use condominium development to replace the building at 2412-2418 E. Main St. He said that issue is a prime example of why individuals other than applicants should be able to appeal to council.
"We should have a voice in that development structure," Waddell said. "In fact, the community, in general, would want to have a voice in such a change to the character of Main Street."
Councilwoman Deneese Owen noted that council has the option of amending Ordinance 33-14 to offer more options.
"Our only two options are not to say only the applicant can appeal or anybody in the world can appeal," she said. "There is a happy middle ground where we could say the applicant and people who show a vested financial and/or legal interest in this particular decision (can appeal)."
The second reading of Ordinance 33-14 was scheduled for Tuesday, June 10, with a public hearing to be scheduled before the third and final reading before council breaks for summer recess in July. If approved by council, the ordinance will not affect the appeals process for any applications that have been filed with the Planning Commission prior to its effective date, according to the legislation.