Four Reynoldsburg City Council members said last week the city's zoning code should only be updated by a development director, although that city position is currently vacant.
Mayor Brad McCloud asked the committee to forward an ordinance to the full council that would authorize him to pay $17,000 to Planning Administrator Aaron Domini to update the city's zoning code, which he said is "out of step and contradictory in many places."
"This is the whole big book of codes that determine different kinds of businesses we will accept in certain areas and what kinds of animals we can harbor," he said. "No one has had the time to go through all these codes."
Finance committee members Monica DeBrock, Mel Clemens, Scott Barrett and Cornelius McGrady voted against McCloud's request; Barth Cotner, Leslie Kelly and Chris Long voted in favor.
Reynoldsburg has not had a development director since August 2011, when Lucas Haire left to take a similar job in Canal Winchester.
"I agree the zoning codes need to be looked at and tweaked, but as a council member, I cannot vote on this without a development director leading this city into positive growth," DeBrock said.
"We need a development director that would also take over zoning," he said. "I don't think the city will ever move ahead without a development director. Maybe the money we would contract out could be put toward that salary.
"I do know this will cost us money, but I personally think we want to do this as soon as we can," he said. "We have to have an in-house person that people can go to so that the city can operate the way it should."
Domini said he didn't think the codes could wait.
"We don't have the tools to renew applications because the code is so outdated," he said.
"I have used the code for six years now and had a lot of problems with it. If you do hire a development director, they would likely outsource this task. A development director concentrates on development and the zoning department concentrates on codes."
DeBrock said she agreed that a development director would need up-to-date codes to work with, but said she is concerned that Reynoldsburg does not even have a master plan for development.
"I think we need a development director to give us his or her vision for the city and its zoning," she said. "I like the idea of a zoning review, but I want to postpone it until we hire a development director."
Domini said the code should be updated before a master plan is considered.
"This code has real issues and we need a clear code to help us make decisions on business requests," he said. "This is a long, long time overdue."
Cotner said the development director position should be filled "but maybe we don't want to miss this opportunity to avoid some zoning issues."
Kelly agreed and said the code should be updated now.
"I am comfortable with Aaron taking on this role," she said. "He has worked closely with city development. If we wait until we have a master plan, we could run into difficult issues with the current zoning code."
"I just can't go for it," Barrett said. "It is a matter of where we need to spend our money."
McGrady said he applauds the idea of updating the code but said he is not happy with the type of businesses that are trying to locate in Reynoldsburg, such as bars, pawnbrokers, "entertainment clubs" and "gentlemen's clubs."
"The United States Constitution says we can regulate that type of business, but not forbid them," McCloud said.