Sue Kiesewetter reports:
By summer’s end it may be more difficult to put up a cell phone tower near the Hawthorne Hills subdivision here.
Trustees initiated a process Tuesday night to rezone 310 lots owned by 276 property owners from agriculture to residential. The land is located in an area roughly bordered by Kyles Station, Millikin, Yankee and Ava roads.
The action can’t stop construction – under Ohio law cell phone towers are considered public utilities and not subject to most zoning laws.
However, setback and other guidelines would be required in a residential zone but not an agriculture zone, said Jon West, the township’s planning and zoning director.
“This doesn’t guarantee there won’t be a cell tower. This is one more step they will have to go through…It would make it more difficult for a cell tower,” said Trustee David Kern
“They’re going to follow the path of least resistance and we don’t want to be that path,’’ added Trustee Tom Farrell.
Still, the decision to begin the rezoning process met with some resistance from property owners who feared it might restrict or prevent the agricultural work on their property.
Chris Boerger, who raises alpacas and other animals on his 5-acre lot, and Karen Kestermann, who has goats and chickens on her 4.88-acre property, asked to opt out of the rezoning.
“I bought my five acres because it was zoned agriculture. I use it for agriculture. I’d like to opt out. I don’t want my zoning changed,’’ Boerger said.
Even if their land were rezoned, the property owners would be able to continue to use it for agricultural purposes, West said.
“If (this action) would limit your use, I would not be having this conversation,” Farrell said.
Under a proposed timeline, public hearings on the matter will be held by the Butler County Planning Commission June 11; the Liberty Township Zoning Commission, July 1; and back to township trustees either July 16 or Aug. 6 for a decision.
Following the decision there would be a 30-day referendum period before the rezoning would take effect.