WILMINGTON — It appears likely that voters in Washington Township will be asked on a ballot next year whether they want zoning.
Of Clinton County’s 13 townships, all have zoning except Washington and Clark Townships.
Washington Township Board of Trustees President Jon Sharp met Wednesday with Clinton County commissioners to inform them the trustees are interested in placing the question of county zoning for the township on the spring 2021 Primary ballot.
Sharp reported there are continuing problems in the township with having occupied travel-trailer campers turn up in yards of residents, as well as a persistent problem of blighted properties.
Without zoning, the township has no real authority to clean up blighted properties, he said. Regarding campers, a central concern is that they do not have sewer or water hookups, the trustee said.
“I just think things are going to keep getting worse in our community,” said Sharp.
Clinton County Assistant Prosecutor Justin Dickman attended the commissioners appointment to help explain the process of how a township can join county zoning.
There will be at least one public meeting where residents can examine a map of the designated zones to be proposed for the township, and offer their feedback. Based on the input, the zones on the map can be changed prior to county commissioners deciding whether the zoning question should be submitted to voters who reside in the township.
There was a time — Sharp thinks it was in the 1980s or early 1990s time frame — when Washington Township had zoning for about a year, having passed it but then later voting it out.
A ballot question whether to adopt zoning in Washington Township has failed two times since 1997, according to Sharp.
Dickman said it’s important for township residents to know that the purpose for which a property currently enjoys will be “grandfathered in” and therefore will not be prohibited.
“If you’re doing it now, it moves forward. That will not be changed with the [adoption of] zoning,” said Dickman.
All three county commissioners expressed support Wednesday for starting the process that ultimately would result in a ballot question that would be voted up or down by the township’s voters.
Clinton County Commissioners President Kerry R. Steed said land-use zoning is a balancing act.
“You want to respect the freedom people have to use their property as they see fit, but at the same time we also need to respect all the other community members and residents of that area in regard to protecting the values of that community and keeping it livable for all,” said Steed.
Clinton County Commissioner Mike McCarty said one thing to take into account is that fewer and fewer townships in the region are unzoned, and as a consequence those places that aren’t zoned are more susceptible to companies seeking to locate, for example, a garbage dump or landfill.
“Once they come in, you’re too late to the dance, so I hope people will consider that part of it [the decision], too,” said McCarty.
Clinton County Commissioner Brenda Woods also said she is in support of moving ahead with the procedure to get the issue on the ballot.
At one point in the discussion Sharp said, “I love the community. We have a good community down home, and the people are good.”
Washington Township is situated south of Union Township and Wilmington, and includes the unincorporated village of Cuba.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.