Aurora Council OKs moratorium on new housing plans

by Ken Lahmers
Aurora City Council on Oct. 26 approved a one-year moratorium on submission/acceptance of plans/applications and issuance of permits for development of residential subdivisions.

AURORA – With the city planning to have a consultant review its current zoning districts, Council on Oct. 26 approved a one-year moratorium on submission/acceptance of plans/applications and issuance of permits for development of residential subdivisions.

The ordinance which was OK’d states “numerous courts have found that temporary development moratoria do not violate the due process clause so long as they are undertaken in good faith, and are efforts to allow a municipality to catch up with its own growth.”

Law Director Dean DePiero explained the city hasn’t updated its zoning districts in about 18 years, and has declared similar moratoria in the past. This one will run through Nov. 1, 2021.

“We believe this is a prudent move, and we’ve utilized it in the past so issues can be discussed and studied,” he said.

DePiero said Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin in consultation with her staff proposed the moratorium. 

"We used a similar moratorium in 2014 when the Geauga Lake property was being rezoned to mixed-use in order to ensure zoning consistency in the area," added DePiero.

Applications for new developments filed with and accepted by the city and permits granted prior to Oct. 28 will not be subject to the moratorium, nor will permits where a lot or plat exists and has been approved, and those in connection with an existing approved development plan.

Saying she hasn’t been a proponent of all the new homes going up in the city, Councilwoman Reva Barner said she is pleased to see the moratorium go into effect.

In other action, Council OK’d selling a 3.03-acre city-owned property on East Pioneer Trail, just east of Page Road, to Bill and Stephanie Fellenstein for the appraised value of $144,000.

The Fellensteins have lived at the site, which includes a house and outbuildings, for several years. Bill is the city’s parks coordinator, and living in the house has been part of his and former parks coordinators’ employment agreements for many years.

“Over the past several months the city has been focused on assessing city-owned properties to determine their overall public usefulness,” said DePiero. “We’ve also focused on purchasing property to keep it from being developed and to promote smart growth.

“The East Pioneer Trail property has been occupied by a city employee who initially was to serve as ‘caretaker’ as part of his duties, and in return was permitted to live on the property. The arrangement dates back to 1992.

“Since then, his duties and the city’s needs have changed and we concluded the property now serves little purpose to the city. Therefore, we are selling it so the proceeds can be invested into a fund to purchase other property to promote smart growth.”

Other action approved by council

Two ordinances for purchases/services were approved. One is to buy $45,924 worth of new playground equipment from Game Time for the Hartman Athletic Complex on Townline Road, and the other is to have Advanced Coatings and Maintenance Solutions seal exterior walls at a parks-rec department storage hangar for $34,218.

Council accepted the latest CARES Act (coronavirus relief) funding of $588,751. It was the third distribution of the funds, with the total now received by the city amounting to $944,954.

Council OK’d amendments to several zoning code chapters.

One amends Chapter 1133 “definitions” and Chapter 1153 “use regulations” to clarify the definition and development standards for multi-family uses, and the other adopts new Chapter 1178 “energy generating devices,” which establishes regulations for solar energy systems.

Meanwhile, heading to second reading is legislation to extend the city’s septic cleaning program through Dec. 31, 2023. It was noted $32,000 of the original $100,000 set aside for the program remains.

The program allows for a one-time reimbursement of up to $180 for any residential property owner with a septic tank who pays more than $180 per cleaning.

Also heading to their next readings are resolutions to submit a grant application to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for a recreation grant for amenities at Kiwanis-Moore Playground, and to increase various sewer, water and cemetery fees assessed by the city in accordance with the Social Security Administration’s 1.3 percent cost of living hike for 2020.

Finance Director Tim Clymer explained the increases are targeted mostly at developers and not individual residents.

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