The newly established commercial building department in Prairie Township has been a success so far, according to township zoning inspector Connie Swisher.

The newly established commercial building department in Prairie Township has been a success so far, according to township zoning inspector Connie Swisher.

Swisher updated trustees on the department's operations at a January board meeting, telling them that the new office has allowed the zoning department to operate more efficiently.

Established six months ago in an effort to encourage new business in the area by making the permit process a little easier, the move also has the effect of giving the township more control over development, she said.

The new building department enforces the Ohio Basic Building Code, which regulates the construction of commercial and multi-family residential structures, township officials said. Before, businesses had to go through the state in order to get a building permit.

"For six months it has gone fairly smoothly," Swisher said. "We haven't had any problems and we've had positive feedback from contractors."

Swisher said some permits take a few weeks to go through, while others -- such as the expansion of OhioHealth Doctors West Hospital -- take months.

"It has allowed us to act more efficiently with the fire department and state," Swisher said.

Since the inception of the department, 17 permits have been issued and new businesses have been established. Those businesses include Tim Horton's and Walgreens, both along West Broad Street, Swisher said.

The new department is housed within the already existing zoning department, she said, and current staff provide administrative oversight. In addition, Mike Asebrook and Associates has been contracted by the township to provide professional plan review and inspection services.

Swisher said the commercial building department has brought in $33,995 for the township in 2008 and the township has paid Asebrook and Associates $8,633 for its services.

Also for 2008, the zoning department brought in $23,098 in revenue, Swisher said. Activity within the zoning department last year included the issuing of 17 building permits; 161 zoning permits; 1,402 miscellaneous log reports; sending out 387 violation letters; the issuing of 67 garage sale permits; issuing 19 total variance applications and 2 conditional use applications; and handling 210 nuisance cases.

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