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Fulton County: New development rules approved

WAUSEON - New regulations aimed at reducing planning and development problems have been adopted by Fulton County and will go into effect Nov. 7.

Under the regulations, approved by county commissioners and earlier by the Fulton County regional planning commission, review standards have been set up for parcel splits on large lots. A state Senate bill approved earlier this year authorizes counties to adopt rules for lots between 5 and 20 acres in size, said Steve Brown, the county's regional planning director.

In response to that bill, the county planning commission spent several months reviewing the new state law. A subdivision committee also was involved in drawing up the regulations that require a development permit for the construction of residential, commercial, industrial, and accessory buildings in the unincorporated areas of Fulton County. The purpose of the permit is to regulate the road setback requirements of the county subdivision regulations, county flood plain regulations, township and county drainage requirements, county health regulations, and county access regulations.

The new regulations apply to the proposed division of a parcel of land along an existing public street, ranging in size from 5 to 20 acres, and does not involve the opening, widening, or extending of any street or road.

Before the law was approved, the county could review lot splits up to 4.99 acres, but now the county can review splits up to 20 acres, Mr. Brown said. Any splits under five acres will come under the minor subdivision regulations, he said.

The additional frontage - 250 feet, up from the former 150 feet - is being required for a number of reasons, Mr. Brown said, including to address road spacing requirements, such as for driveways.

Dennis Richardson, a member of the county planning commission who was involved in the review process for the regulations, said that the new development permit meshes with the county's comprehensive plan for orderly growth and development.

Safety is a paramount concern, and the minimum lot frontage requirement of 250 feet will help with spacing issues along rural roads, Mr. Richardson said. In addition, the regulations will give officials additional tools to help preserve agricultural land and rural estates.

Added Mr. Brown: "This should help keep some of the county's rural identity."

The new regulations will help cut down on some of the strip-row residential development that has been occurring in the county, Mr. Brown said.

All lot splits under five acres will require proof of water, such as a well, but lot splits over five acres won't require an approved water source, Mr. Brown said. However, if the county health department has a concern about water on a certain parcel, it can flag it for further review, he said.

"One of the big reasons we are doing this is that if a series of 5-acre splits come in, we can better review them for drainage, sanitary, and access reasons," Mr. Brown said. "That is one of the reasons we are sort of excited about this happening."

Parcel splits for agricultural and/or personal recreational uses are exempt from the large lot development regulations.

Two public hearings were held before the new regulations were approved, but nobody attended either one, Mr. Brown said. Copies of the new regulations are being sent out to real estate agents, attorneys, surveyors, and others. A 30-day period was provided before the regulations go into effect so that people can be notified about the changes, he said.

The number of parcel splits has slowed considerably in recent years.

"We used to get 200 minor lot splits, but we've been hovering at 100 to 110 a year," Mr. Brown said. However, the county is seeing more large lot splits involving more than five acres as farmers sell off some farm land, he said. When someone buys 40 acres of farm land and strips it into 5-acre parcels, problems can occur when there are no development plans in place for drainage and driveway access, he said.

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