Summit County Council and some of the county’s townships are creating a task force to examine setting a standard for zoning maintenance enforcement in the county.

The task force idea came from Sagamore Hills Township Board of Trustees vice chair John Zaccardelli.

“As a home rule county, townships need to have a standard of governing zoning maintenance ordinances,” he said during the council's regular committee meeting Monday.

The process would come through a Summit County ordinance on property maintenance that township zoning inspectors could enforce in their townships.

The county should have the legal authority to allow those inspectors to enforce a county ordinance, based on a 2016 opinion from the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office that said zoning inspectors could enforce a county ordinance on weeds and vegetation.

“This would be something similar,” said chief assistant prosecutor John Galonski.

Zaccardelli said examples of zoning townships could enforce include issues with exterior surfaces of structures, foundation walls, roofs and damaged or diseased trees in danger of falling on structures, the last of which is one of the bigger issues in Sagamore Hills, its trustees said.

‘We have no authority just to say, hey, cut your tree if a person's tree is leaning on this house,” Sagamore Hills Township trustee Paul Schweikert said.

Townships could then issue fines after a “reasonable time frame” to enforce basic property maintenance, Zaccardelli said. Currently, townships have to go to court over zoning issues.

Schweikert used the example of a township resident who has had a tarp over a garage roof for several months.

“It'd be easy for us to go up and say look, you've got 90 days to put a new roof on the garage, or it's a $120 fine, something like that,” he said. “We don't have that ability now … It's just a big, long, drawn-out process.”

Schweikert said with the “little threat” of a fine, “people will move. They'll get these things done.”

Copley Township trustee Helen Humphrys, who’s also president of the Township Association of Summit County, said zoning enforcement would be “much easier if the county stood behind” the townships.

Summit County Council President Jeff Wilhite said a meeting will be scheduled after the task force is created.

"The request was to create a task force to take a look at this issue … and we're in favor of doing that,” he said.

In other action Monday, the council’s public safety committee approved a resolution allowing the county to purchase 14 laptops at state term pricing, totaling $27,328, for the county’s public defenders’ office.

Deborah Matz, director of the county's law, insurance and risk management department, said public defenders are currently using their own equipment, which isn’t consistent and lacks some of the same software.

"The public defenders’ office probably is one of the more underfunded social services agencies in this county that provides an incredibly valuable service to folks in the low- to moderate-income range who cannot afford otherwise the services of an attorney,” she said. “In order to make sure that they can really do their job, they need updated technology.”

The council’s District 7 representative, Bethany McKenney, questioned the high price for 14 laptops. Matz said the computers aren’t extremely sophisticated, but they’re also not “lower-level laptops,” as they need “a fair amount of computing power to run the applications that the public defenders’ office needs.”

The council will vote on the resolution at a future meeting.

The council also recognized the University of Akron’s esports program for winning the Collegiate Rocket League National Championship Tournament.

 

Contact Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, emills@thebeaconjournal.com and @EmilyMills818.