Whitehall News

Following federal guidelines

Whitehall looks to eliminate restrictions on places of worship

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Churches and other places of worship would become permitted uses in all zoning districts, according to an ordinance introduced during the Dec. 4 meeting of Whitehall City Council.

The ordinance is meant to align the city with the federal Religions Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and amend the city's zoning code so as to eliminate existing restrictions in some of the city's zoning districts, Whitehall development director Zach Woodruff said.

The amendments would allow churches and places of worship as a special permit use in the R-1, or residential, zoning district; LCD, limited commercial district; and OD, office district. They would remove existing restrictions, most of which relate to the size of places of worship relative to the number of required parking spaces, when seeking special permits in numerous other zoning districts, including R-2, R-3 and R-4, all residential districts, and A-1 and A-2, apartment districts.

The Whitehall Planning Commission is expected to review the proposed amendment before council acts. The ordinance is scheduled for a second reading Dec. 18 and a third and final reading Jan. 2, 2013, when council is expected to pass the measure.

In other action Dec. 4, resident David Nixon appealed to council members to consider a policy regulating police pursuits.

Nixon referred to a Nov. 30 accident that seriously injured a Whitehall police officer and killed a Whitehall motorist (See related story). The accident occurred minutes after police had chased a man, who had violated a protection order, from the residence of a woman he allegedly was harassing.

Nixon also referred to a 2009 accident involving a Whitehall police officer in the city of Bexley.That crash ended in the death of at least one of the suspects police were pursuing.

"In respect to Mr. Lightle and officer (Enrique) Ortega, I think we should consider a moratorium on high-speed chases," said Nixon, who did not know Lightle, the 78-year-old man killed in the collision with Ortega.

Nixon told council members other communities have such policies.

Council president Jim Graham thanked Nixon for his comments, but no council member responded to Nixon's suggestion.

In formal action at the meeting, council members adopted an ordinance authorizing Mayor Kim Maggard to extend a personal service contract for two years for engineering services with Evans, Mechwart, Hambleton and Tilton Inc. and an ordinance appropriating $22,000 from non-appropriated revenue in the general fund to the income tax refund account; and appropriating $10,148 from nonappropriated revenue in the general fund to the self-funded health-insurance account.

An ordinance appropriating $26.7 million for the city's general-fund expenditures for 2013 received a second reading. It is scheduled for a third and final reading Dec. 18, council's last regularly scheduled meeting of the year.

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