The Prairie Township Zoning Department has established its own commercial building department.

The Prairie Township Zoning Department has established its own commercial building department.

The Ohio Board of Building Standards (BBS) has authorized the township to establish the new department-within-a-department.

The new department will enforce the Ohio Basic Building Code, which regulates the construction of commercial and multi-family residential structures.

Township administrator Tracy Hatmaker said the new department will not only encourage new business in the area by making it easier to get a permit, but will allow for more control by the township.

Because the new commercial building department will be part of the already existing zoning department, current staff will provide administrative oversight, Hatmaker said. Mike Asebrook and Associates has been contracted by the township to provide professional plan review and inspection services.

"This department will allow us to integrate building and zoning approval with planned economic development initiatives," Hatmaker said. "This increased contact with new and expanding businesses will be valuable to the community's economic efforts."

Before, businesses had to go through the state in order to obtain a building permit, Hatmaker said.

In addition, local applications will be top priority for township officials, while operating on a statewide basis puts Plain Township business in line behind whoever got there first.

"By bringing enforcement of the Ohio Basic Building Code to the township level, the trustees feel that they are able to add a local perspective in terms of the service provided and the fees charged," Hatmaker said. "While the state has provided excellent service, this approach provides for a measure of local control."

Hatmaker said the zoning department, the fire department and Asebrook will work together to ensure fast, high quality service at a reasonable cost to those doing business within the township. The new department won't cost township taxpayers a dime, he said.

"The fees cover the cost of outside consultants, as well as township staff and overhead," Hatmaker said.

Trustee Steve Kennedy said one thing to remember is that the new department handles commercial building permits only. Single-family homes will still have to be handled by the county, he said.

"This will make it easier on anyone doing new commercial construction in the township," he said. "Now you can get your zoning and building permit in the same place and in a timely manner and put a face with the person you will be dealing with."