PAULDING – The first quarter Paulding County Zoning Inspector meeting was recently held at the OSU Extension Building.  Tim Copsey, Paulding County Economic Development Director, provided a brief overview of previous meetings for new attendees and shared how this meeting has developed and grown out of the quarterly county mayor meetings.  This group developed in 2023 and has continued to meet as a way to bridge communication gaps and provide idea sharing and collaboration around the county.  Copsey then introduced the guest speaker, the Honorable Suzanne Rister, Municipal Court Judge, to the group of township trustees, mayors, village council officials and other local officials that attended.

Judge Rister shared the legal process involved in addressing junk or trash ordinances within villages and townships. She presented stats regarding the number of cases handled by the municipal court and shared that there is a low occurrence of zoning cases across the county. Most issues are resolved through correspondence from governing agencies. The number of zoning cases presented to the court annually were: eight in 2020, two in 2021, nineteen in 2022, eight in 2023, and none so far in 2024. Only a small fraction of cases gets to the point of jailable offenses.  The cases that do mainly involve repeated violations of the same code.

Judge Rister highlighted the importance of clear communication between townships and village officials and residents, stressing the need of providing detailed documentation and current evidence in zoning violation cases.

Fines collected from convictions are returned to the charging entity. Judge Rister also addressed reimbursement policies, including attorney fees, indicating her efforts to alleviate financial burden on localities in these cases.

Incite was provided for how to increase the likelihood of favorable rulings for concerned localities. Judge Rister advised that representatives from villages or townships stand alongside prosecutors during court proceedings to be a witness to the case.

Participants asked about various procedure and process aspects, such as submitting evidence and how to handle repeat offenders. Judge Rister provided clarifications on landlord responsibilities and the criteria for jailable offenses.

Prosecutor Joe Burkard followed and elaborated on strategies for addressing property cleanup, expressing the importance of thorough information and gathering photos and time stamped evidence.

Copsey followed providing updates on community cleanup efforts, highlighting recent accomplishments, and shared ongoing projects where the Paulding County Land Bank and Community Improvement Corporations are involved.

Copsey then shared a prospective new project that may aid in cutting down zoning violations.  A recent investment at Kohart’s Surplus and Salvage, now provides a way to efficiently shred and recycle vehicles.  A request was made to all townships and villages to have conversations with property owners that have vehicles that do not have current plates on them.  If the owners are willing to sell the vehicle there is a possibility of designing a county program to purchase these cars and remove them at no cost to the owners.  In order for this program to develop we need to understand the demand and interest from residents.

Attendees discussed potential ways, including local recycling events, to facilitate resident cleanup efforts and how to identify blighted properties or open lots for future redevelopment.

Sarah McCabe, with the Paulding County Auditors office, shared that the County GIS system is updated now with zoning layers for Oakwood, Antwerp, Paulding and Crane Township. This was thanks to collaboration with the Paulding County Engineers office.

The importance of continuing to improve the county GIS system was noted. It is extremely helpful when inquires for site development come into the PCED office, especially for water and sewer infrastructure mapping.  All localities were encouraged to work on mapping their utilities to better streamline planning down the road.

All in attendance agreed to meet again next quarter for continued collaboration between zoning inspectors and to discuss community revitalization efforts.