Olentangy Valley News

Liberty Township

Home-business owners allowed to skip zoning process

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A moratorium on the piece of Liberty Township's zoning code governing home businesses was approved by trustees Sept. 3, and it has already saved three resident entrepreneurs the time and money associated with the zoning appeals process.

Township Zoning Inspector Holly Foust told trustees that the moratorium on the code's home occupation resolution was a logical step because in just a few months, the code will define home businesses differently.

After a decade of revisions, an updated zoning code was sent to the Delaware County Prosecutor's Office in July. It includes a reclassification of businesses that are run out of a home that says if the owners meet certain criteria, they won't be required to attend a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting as they are now.

Another driving force behind the moratorium was Tom Duncan, who just wanted to spend his free time baking pies when he retired in 2011.

The Pie Man, as Duncan is known as at the weekly Powell Farmers Market, has been making the desserts to sell every summer since then.

But, Duncan said he feared the hobby would have to come to an end when earlier this summer his neighbor complained to Liberty Township that he was profiting from the pies and in essence running an unsanctioned home business.

His attention was brought to the complaint when he received a notice from the township stating that he would have to send an application to the township's Board of Zoning Appeals along with a $600 check to pay for a public hearing. At that public hearing, he would have to prove that his home business fell under the zoning code's conditional use resolution.

"I have no business, per se, running from the home," Duncan said. "I don't solicit and I don't have people coming to the house to pick up pies. It's just a sheer hobby. I've gotten to know a lot of the Farmers Market vendors and we have camaraderie there and I like being there. That's all."

Because of that, Duncan fought against the zoning appeals process that -- prior to the moratorium being approved -- he and two others were scheduled to go through later this month.

Trustee Mary Leneghan pointed out that Duncan isn't the first in recent history to ask for a break from the Board of Zoning Appeals. She said that by putting the moratorium into place now seems unfair to previous home business applicants-one in particular.

In May, she asked council to place a moratorium on the zoning resolution when Mike Gemperline complained to council.

Gemperline runs Medical Furnishings Group out of his home on Millwater Drive and was sent a zoning notice on March 18 that informed him of the application process.

When he failed to file a zoning application, another letter was sent on April 15. In May, he approached the trustees, who agreed to waive the $600 hearing fee but wouldn't let him out of the actual hearing.

At the time, trustees Curt Sybert and Mary Carducci said that granting him a moratorium would leave the township liable because the revised code in its entirety hadn't yet been sent to the Prosecutor's Office.

Gemperline received approval for his home business at the Aug. 13 Board of Zoning Appeals meeting by proving that furniture he had stored in his garage is now being stored elsewhere.

Township Administrator Dave Anderson pointed out after the meeting that Gemperline would likely not be exempt under the current moratorium anyway, because he was seen loading and unloading furniture from trucks parked in his driveway and using his garage as a storage place.

"It can't affect your neighbors. You can't have a bunch of traffic coming in and out or trash blowing around or things sitting in your yard or things being delivered," said Sybert, who spent nine years on the township zoning board. "It's all just common sense."

The new zoning code will be put to a public hearing once it's approved by the Prosecutor's Office. The final step is approval by the trustees. Foust said the Prosecutor's Office plans to have the code approved by Nov. 1 but if it doesn't meet that deadline, the process could last until early 2014.

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