Panel backs Planning Commission changes to Salem building rules

SALEM – Members of the Rules & Ordinances Committee of city council didn’t take a vote but expressed agreement Tuesday with suggested changes to the plot diagram requirements for construction projects.

Now they just need a legal opinion on whether they can amend the original ordinance to reflect the changes during a second reading before council or whether they have to introduce those changes in a new ordinance.

Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who chairs the committee, said she’ll forward the information to city Law Director Brooke Zellers for an answer on how to proceed.

Committee members met to review the changes suggested by the city Planning Commission, which met last week regarding the original proposal and voted to reject it, recommending instead to suggest amendments. The amendments deal with the type of structures to be covered by the requirement for a plot diagram prepared by a surveyor, engineer or architect.

The original proposal, which had a first reading before council in December, specified projects with a value exceeding $10,000 for permanent, non-moveable structures greater than 120 square feet. The previous dollar figure was $5,000 and didn’t specify permanent, non-moveable structures or the size of the structures.

The Planning Commission suggested changing the ordinance to define “any structural construction addition to a permanent, non-moveable, existing structure, regardless of final completed value” as one of three project areas covered by the professionally-prepared plot diagram requirement.

The other two project areas were defined as: permanent, non-moveable detached structures whose completion value exceeds $5,000; and non-permanent, moveable detached structures whose completion value exceeds $10,000.

Before the changes were discussed, Councilman Clyde Brown, one of the three committee members, questioned where the Planning Commission gets the authority to reject something.

City Planning and Zoning Officer Patrick Morrissey responded that the commission exercised its rights under the Ohio Revised Code to either accept or not accept what’s being requested by council to alter construction requirements. If something is rejected, he said council can override the Planning Commission’s decision by a vote of two-thirds or more.

In talking about the suggested changes, Morrissey said he felt the section regarding non-permanent, moveable detached structures with a completion value exceeding $10,000 met the intent of the Rules & Ordinances Committee in its original proposal. He said the commission felt there were other issues that could come up, pointing to additions to existing structures and construction of permanent, non-moveable detached structures.

Committee member Councilman Rick Drummond asked if the commission was driving the change or whether it was Morrissey based on his experience. Morrissey said at least three members of the commission had asked questions and others helped, saying it did not all come from him.

Dickey said it still includes the increase to the completion value for more than $10,000 for a non-permanent, moveable structure. Any type of non-permanent shed valued under that amount would not require the professionally-prepare plot diagram.

She said having the requirement for an addition to an existing permanent structure was not unreasonable, agreeing that it’s good to check the location of the property line before starting a project.

Morrissey gave an example of a deck being added to a house. A neighbor complained that it was on his property and when a survey was ordered by the Board of Zoning Appeals, it was confirmed that the deck was over the line.

Mayor John Berlin, who is a member of the Planning Commission by virtue of his position, said while this will help the resident doing the construction, it also helps protect the people who live beside or behind the property and can prevent a confrontation over a property line.

Morrissey said people usually point the finger at his department, questioning why the city didn’t do something to prevent a neighbor from going on another property. By requiring a diagram which takes into account a survey, it will help.

Dickey then questioned how it would affect a dog pen that would be anchored or a deck around a pool. Morrissey said any free-standing structure would fall under the category for a permanent, non-moveable detached structure, but he questioned whether those items would exceed the cost of $5,000 and fall under the requirement.

“I think we have to be reasonable,” he said.