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'Plethora' of legislation related to Roberts Lane extension, other matters considered at Hillsboro City Council's June meeting

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Pictured (l-r) are Hillsboro city law director Randalyn Worley, auditor Dawson Barreras, mayor Justin Harsha, public works superintendent Shawn Adkins and safety and service director Brianne Abbott. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Caitlin Forsha, The Highland County Press

Hillsboro City Council members took action on a number of items related to the ongoing Roberts Lane extension project during their Thursday, June 13 meeting.

As previously reported, a ribbon-cutting for the development off state Route 73 took place in October 2023, almost two years to the day since Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha introduced plans for the project. Work on the extension has been progressing since the fall, and as of her report to council Thursday, safety and service director Brianne Abbott said that the Roberts Lane extension has a “projected completion date of August.”

The first reading of ordinances and resolutions included six different ordinances “accepting the dedication of a public right of way easement,” and in some cases a road extension, for new and existing roads as part of the development.

“The city has received the plats and legal descriptions for the Roberts Drive extension project,” Abbott said. “We are just wishing to dedicate that project as city streets and rights of way, so this is something standard we do with all new roads. It would be designated as a city street, we’d maintain it as a city street, and so on.”

Council unanimously approved as an emergency, following suspension of the three-reading rule, at Abbott’s request “to avoid any delays with the infrastructure improvements:” an ordinance accepting the dedication of a public right of way easement and extension of Roberts Drive [Lane]; an ordinance accepting the dedication of a 60-foot-wide public right of way easement of Hauke-Dragoo Avenue; an ordinance accepting the dedication of a 60-80-foot-wide public right of way easement of Cross Road; an ordinance accepting the dedication of a public right of way easement and extension of Fairground Road; an ordinance accepting the dedication of a 60-foot-wide public right of way easement of Ivory Lane; and an ordinance accepting the dedication of a 60-foot-wide public right of way easement of Shaw Circle.

Also approved as an emergency was a resolution transferring the property in the Roberts Lane extension to the Hillsboro Community Improvement Corporation “for economic development purposes,” according to Abbott.

The eighth and final matter related to the project approved by council was an ordinance making supplemental appropriations for the project. The ordinance is to appropriate “additional funds for the Roberts Lane extension project … from the current grants and loans that have been received” that “are not heretofore appropriated,” the legislation says.

The ordinance is to appropriate $6,049,690.20 in construction funding and $601,389.40 in engineering costs, according to the legislation.

“What I'm suggesting here is something that I don't think has ever been done within the city, and I think why that is, is because the city hasn't done a project quite at this magnitude, at least not for a long time,” city auditor Dawson Barreras told council. “It’s the money that we got from the grants and the loans at the beginning of the project. We've already spent probably about $4 million in this money.

“What I'm suggesting is we appropriate this money — all of the money — right now, and then I will take this legislation, send it to the county auditor, so we can do a revision to our revenue budget. That way, when I get an invoice from these contractors, we can pay the invoice right now, instead of coming to council every single month to approve invoices.”

Both Barreras and Abbott said it would cut down on potential “late fees,” while Barreras added it would “really hurry the process along” as contractors “have not been paid on time, almost every month,” due to waiting for council approval on each payment.

“This money has already been approved by council,” Barreras said. “We’ve already got the money, or have acquired the money, or will be getting the money, from the state or from various loans that we have from the project. We just need this money to be appropriated.

“If you guys do pass this, obviously appropriations go through the next day, but this legislation won't go into effect until the county auditor approves it.”

Council member Jason Brown asked city law director Randalyn Worley to verify that it is “all OK” from a legal standpoint.

“I believe the city auditor checked with the state and the county auditor, and everything is on the up and up from an auditing perspective,” Worley said. “As far as the actual expenditure of the funds, you, as a whole as council, have already approved that for this project. Those funds will not be expended outside of the parameters put in place by council.”

Barreras said it has “been a long process” of speaking with “the state and other auditors around the state of Ohio to find out what we could do legally,” but “this is a legal option, and this is how everyone else does it.”

In addition to those ordinances and resolution, there was “a plethora” of legislation on the June 13 agenda, as pointed out by council president Tom Eichinger. That included the following:

• A resolution establishing staggered four-year terms of office among members of Hillsboro City Council passed 6-0 after its third reading.

As previously reported, during “new business” at the March 14 meeting, council voted 7-0 to recommend that Worley draft legislation to change the terms for the ward representatives on city council for one time only, in order to stagger the terms for council members.

Current ward representatives are Adam Wilkin (Ward 1), Don Storer (Ward 2), Dan Baucher (Ward 3) and Mary Stanforth (Ward 4). The at-large members are Brown, Greg Maurer and Jo Sanborn.

“I would ask the clerk, once this is official 30 days from now, to see to it that the Board of Elections receives a copy of the new resolution so that they can prepare the necessary steps for the next set of elections,” Eichinger told council clerk Whitney Aliff after council approved the legislation.

• An ordinance amending section 10.18 of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to the official emblem was approved, following its third reading.

Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha said in April it is part of a modern “rebrand” for the city, as the existing emblem was adopted via legislation in 1985.

“The modern new logo will generate a universal and more cohesive branding effort,” Harsha said when the proposal was introduced. “An objective to enhance the city branding efforts has been highlighted in our comprehensive plan, Imagine Hillsboro.”

• An ordinance amending section 114.08 of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to mobile food vendors was approved 5-1, with Sanborn voting no.

As previously reported, a version of the ordinance had its first reading in April. That legislation proposed to keep the current fees for mobile food vendors — “a $200 per calendar year fee or $100 one-time use permit” — but lists the Highland County Fair, Hillsboro Festival of the Bells or the Hillsboro Farmers’ Market as being “exempt from mobile food permitting and fees.”

When the legislation was put back into the street and safety committee, according to chair Wilkin, the committee voted 3-0 during an April 24 meeting to instead recommend waiving all fees altogether for food vendors.

The revised ordinance says, “Effective Jan. 1, 2025, any person submitting a mobile food vehicle or cart application shall no longer pay the $200 calendar year fee or $100 one-time use permit fee.” It continues to list the Festival of the Bells, Highland County Fair and Hillsboro Farmers Market as being exempt from fees in 2024.
• A resolution to advertise and solicit bids for citywide waste collection passed as an emergency after suspension of the three-reading rule.

According to utilities committee chair Greg Maurer, his committee met May 29 to discuss a proposal suggested by the city administration for a citywide waste collection. He advised the committee that “waste collection companies would not provide RFP and that we needed to authorize the administration to get bids to see if we want to proceed making this part of our city utilities,” Maurer said.

Maurer added that the committee is recommending suspension of the three-reading rule “because we need to get the bids in time to add it to next year’s budget,” should they decide to move forward.

• Council voted 6-0 to suspend the three-reading rule and to approve emergency passage of     an ordinance modifying the zoning classification of parcels on South East Street.

 Prior to their regular meeting Thursday, council and the Hillsboro Planning Commission held a joint public hearing to discuss the proposal for rezoning 604, 608, 614, 618, 620 and 622 South East Street from Business C to Residential B. There was no public input submitted.

“They're all residential right now, and their zoning is currently C,” Rob Holt of the Hillsboro Planning Commission said. “There's a lot of these miszoned areas in Hillsboro. One of the things we've made it a point to do, when we find them, is bring them to council’s attention and try to get these righted, or get the proper zoning in those areas.”

Holt added that they were seeking to pass the legislation as an emergency due to having a structure demolished on one of the properties, as he said the property owner has interest in rebuilding.

“They're wanting to rebuild a home on the property, but since it was vacant for more than 180 days, I believe, it's reverted back to the C zoning,” Holt said. “Currently, now they can't build on that, and they’re small, residential lots.”

Brown said the zoning and annexation committee also considered the request at their June 6 meeting and recommended the legislation’s passage as an emergency.

• A resolution authorizing the mayor to execute a Community Development Block Grant Program Revolving Loan Fund administration agreement for Jan. 1, 2024 through Dec. 31, 2026 with the Ohio Department of Development was approved after suspension of the three-reading rule.

In response to a question from Brown, Abbott explained that it is “sort of like that gap financing for economic development purposes.

“An outside developer or business will come to the city's Revolving Loan Fund committee, and then we can utilize CDBG funds to help fund their project if they need gap financing and if they have job creation,” Abbott said. “That also helps existing businesses who need help here within the city too, not just new [ones].”

• Council approved two appropriations ordinances. One was to account for a $1,000 safety grant reimbursement, and the other was a $7,935 appropriation to account for funds “received through the concession stand at Shaffer Park.”

• After suspension of the three-reading rule, council passed an ordinance approving and adopting the 2024-2028 countywide all natural hazards mitigation plan prepared by RFG Associates Inc.

• Having its first reading were several ordinances regarding zoning changes, beginning with an ordinance amending section 155.067(D) of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to the Business C zoning district purpose statement.

Brown said the zoning and annexation committee unanimously recommended its passage. A public hearing to consider the change will be held July 11 at 6:30 p.m.

As proposed, the update will change the Business “C” Zoning District’s purpose statement to read: “It is the purpose of the Business ‘C’ Zoning District to promote the development of business uses.”

The same language is contained in the current zoning code, but it also includes an additional sentence in error, which Abbott said is “a typo, a repeat from a different section, that needed to be corrected.”

An ordinance amending section 154.002, 154.003 and 96.22 of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro was also introduced, with no action taken yet.

As brought out by Worley, the ordinance would change the language in the code to remove “the three-mile jurisdictional area” around the city limits from being subject to subdivision regulations and for the code on driveway cuts.

“The current city code requires driveway cuts and Planning Commission plats within a three-mile radius outside the city limits to be approved by city administration,” Worley said. “The proposed ordinance will remove such language and require approvals only within the corporation limits of the city.”

Finally, an ordinance amending section 155.072 of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to the permitted uses table had its first reading. Public comments on this proposal will also be heard July 11.

According to Brown, the Hillsboro Planning Commission had made a recommendation for a zoning code amendment regarding parking back in September 2020, “but it was never brought to council.”

Section 155.072 has a permitted uses table for each zoning district, as parking lots are currently now only “permitted with standards” in zones B and G. This ordinance proposes adding the lots as being permitted in the C, D, E and F zoning districts.

Council members (l-r) Adam Wilkin, Greg Maurer, Jason Brown, Dan Baucher, Don Storer, Jo Sanborn and Tom Eichinger are pictured.

In other discussion:

• Harsha focused his report on recent park upgrades.

For the Railroad Street Park, Harsha said that pickleball “courts are being surfaced right now, and the painting is going on,” with the project expected to be completed sometime during the week of June 16.

“We’re looking forward to having that for everybody to enjoy,” Harsha said.

At Liberty Park, Harsha said the city’s new grant-funded playground at Harmony Lake is almost done, except for installing the ADA-accessible ramp, which should also be done the week of June 16.

“If you get a chance, go out there and check it out,” Harsha said. “I think a lot of people are out there enjoying it already, so it turned out amazing, and it's going to be a great addition to Harmony Lake.”

Also at Liberty Park, behind Harmony Lake, there is a new archery range done thanks to “a generous donation,” Harsha said.

“I think those three things are going to add a lot to the community, and I'm excited about it,” Harsha said.

Additions to the city’s park system, which were discussed in more detail at council’s May meeting, were also brought up during Abbott’s report.

As previously reported, the City of Hillsboro received $5,204,536 award to supplement already earmarked grant funding for Crossroads Park (formerly known as the green space on West Main Street). The city has already secured $100,000 in state capital funding, through a partnership with Southern State Community College, for the project. The park has served as the site for the Hillsboro Festival of the Bells and other local events.

“We just completed the evaluations of the request for qualifications for the Appalachian Community Grant project, Crossroads Park,” Abbott said. “A design firm will be selected, actually probably next week, for the project.”

In infrastructure updates, Abbott said that the “North High Street lead line replacement project that was projected to begin this spring is on hold due to some backordered supplies, but will begin as soon as materials are delivered,” while “various paving projects are slated to begin mid-July.”

As previously reported, at their December 2023 meeting, council voted to approve “$1 million worth of paving” in 2024, including some or all of West Walnut, Johnson, East South, East and West Pleasant, Oak, Vine and South Elm streets.  Due to costs being under projection, in May it was announced the city its seeking bids to pave Fenner Avenue, Holmes Street, North Elm Street, Fair Street, Catherine Street and Bell Street, along with portions of West North Street, East Beech Street and Oak Street.

Abbott also provided a brief update on the long-discussed Marriott Hotel project, which was first proposed in 2019.

“The Marriott Hotel has submitted revised plans that are in review,” she said. “We are told that once the private lenders are committed, we will proceed with the bond issue. The developer advises the plan is to break ground in the third quarter of this year.”

Abbott also reported that the city issued 13 commercial and 13 residential building permits during the month of May.

Abbott encouraged the community to attend the weekly farmers’ market in the uptown district every Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. as well as the Movies Under the Stars events on Friday nights at Crossroads Park.

• In addition to the aforementioned items discussed by the zoning and annexation committee, Brown said that the committee reviewed an ordinance proposal from the Planning Commission for auto service station/auto repair shop standards “as there currently are no codes for this.” However, he said the committee “decided to send the legislation back to the Planning Commission to be discussed further.”

• Although finance committee chair Mary Stanforth was absent, Brown said she had asked him to request council to reconsider an ordinance on raising the auditor’s salary, which has been in limbo since being introduced and subsequently tabled in August 2023.

Council voted 5-1, with council member and finance committee member Adam Wilkin voting no, to put the ordinance back in Stanforth’s committee “for review and possible restructure,” as Eichinger said.

• At the beginning of the meeting, council voted 6-0 to excuse the absence of Stanforth.

• Under communications, it was noted that the Ohio Division of Liquor Control had written to the city regarding LaRosa’s Pizza, which recently closed. With no comments from council, Eichinger said they “will just respond to the state that they can move forward with their next action.”

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David Anthony Mayer (not verified)

17 June 2024

The current salary is too low. Considering the accounting industry is seeing lower college enrollments in accounting and baby boomers are retiring, an increase is justified to keep and retain qualified personnel.

Long Memory (not verified)

18 June 2024

"A two-hour and 19-minute Hillsboro city council meeting Tuesday included 40 minutes of discussion on a proposed city-wide trash ordinance......" Copied from an article by this publication on 10/10/18 about a city council meeting on 10/9/18. There were a lot of citizens, owners of waste disposal companies, and a city elected official at the meeting complaining about a unified waste collection proposal in 2018.
All that push back in 2018 over just a mere discussion about the unified waste collection, it never even
got to the resolution stage. Now in 2024, the same proposal has been made to what seems like no or
very little opposition and even the next step of a resolution to accept bids! What changed in the 6 years?
It's definitely not that there aren't still local waste collection businesses. The main complaint in the past
was the detriment to the local waste hauling owners. To my knowledge, only one local company has sold out to big business in that time period. So, what in the world could be the difference?
Oh, I know what it is! Different administration. Homegrown. Good ol' boy system.

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