BOWLING GREEN After learning the local library had revived its plan to build a new parking lot, City Planning Commission Chairman Les Barber figured his board would soon be considering an application to rezone the property.
The land at North Church and West Court street is zoned single-family residential, which does not permit parking lots, but officials with the Wood County District Public Library say they do not plan to seek any zoning changes for the project.
Director Elaine Paulette said yesterday that the library is relying on a legal opinion from Wood County Prosecutor Ray Fischer which states that governmental entities like the library should make a reasonable, good-faith attempt to comply with local zoning restrictions but are not required to under Ohio law.
If the library decides to accept the gift of the red brick house next to the proposed parking lot, Ms. Paulette said, it also would not seek a zoning change. Library trustees discussed the gift offered by the Robert and Patricia Maurer family when they met Wednesday but tabled the offer until they had more information about the financial ramifications of accepting the house.
When the question of zoning was raised, Board President Scott McEwen said he didn t anticipate any problems. The library isn t bound by any zoning restrictions, he told the board.
City Attorney Mike Marsh said technically, Mr. McEwen is correct. Obviously, we would prefer that everyone, regardless of who or what they are, comply with our ordinances, but we also know not everyone has to, Mr. Marsh said. You always worry if one entity does this, that others will follow suit.
Planning Director Rick Ketzenbarger said he was unaware of any public projects whether it involved the county, state, or schools in which the agency did not get city approval and comply with zoning laws. The library itself did so for the expansion and renovation project it completed in 2003, he said.
Mayor John Quinn said he was concerned about the precedent the library would be setting.
Any time you re dealing with precedent you re talking about what s going to happen from this day forward, Mr. Quinn said. We have a good record of having these agencies go through the process which we think is good for the public. What happens to the process because of this? That s the unknown part.
Ms. Paulette said in her mind, the library already tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to get the zoning changed. Last fall, Mr. Maurer, who owns the corner lot, and Port Lawrence Title & Trust Co., which holds title to the adjacent property for the library, applied to the city to rezone the property from residential to institutional. After a heated public hearing, the planning commission recommended City Council reject the rezoning. Before the question came before council, though, the rezoning request was withdrawn, and the library board said it intended to step back and get more public input.
The mayor said in his opinion, that was Mr. Maurer s application, not the library s. Mr. Barber agreed. He said he assumed the library board would make an attempt in its own name to get the parcels rezoned, and he thinks it should.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at email@example.com or 419-353-5972.