The question whether Washington Township should have zoning will be answered on November ballots rather than being sorted out in voting this spring.
The decision to change the timing of the ballot issue stems from the estimated cost to place the question on the May 4 ballot, said Clinton County Assistant Prosecutor Justin Dickman.
Putting the issue on the spring 2021 Primary Special Election ballot would have meant that the entire expense of getting the issue on the ballot would be borne by Washington Township, he said. The estimated cost to the township is in the $18,000 range.
In contrast, the price to have the question on the Nov. 2 General Election ballot will drop significantly because the expenses are split up, said Dickman, so the decision was made to wait.
Washington Township trustees and county commissioners “wanted to be good fiscal stewards to the taxpayers,” he added.
On the upside, the postponement means Washington Township residents now have an opportunity to dig deeper into the prospect of zoning in their township, said Dickman.
Of Clinton County’s 13 townships, all have zoning except Washington and Clark Townships.
Back in October 2020, Washington Township Trustee Jon Sharp met with Clinton County commissioners to inform them the township trustees were interested in placing the question of county zoning for the township on the ballot.
At the commissioners appointment, 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.
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.
And a ballot question whether to adopt zoning in Washington Township has failed twice since 1997, according to Sharp.
At that same meeting, Dickman said it’s important for township residents to know that the purpose for which a property currently is used and 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.
Also in October, Clinton County Commissioners then-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 last fall one thing to take into account is that fewer and fewer townships in the region are unzoned, and as a result those townships that aren’t zoned are more susceptible to companies seeking to place, 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, too,” said McCarty.
Washington Township is situated south of Union Township and Wilmington, and includes the unincorporated village of Cuba. The township encompasses 27.3 square miles, and 17,484 acres.
On the homepage of the Clinton County Building & Zoning website, you can view the map for the proposed zoning in Washington Township by clicking on the link titled Washington Township Proposed Zoning Map.
Furthermore, you can access the Clinton County zoning regulations in their entirety by clicking on Clinton County Zoning Resolution 2014.v2020 as found on the Zoning page of the Clinton County Building & Zoning website.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.