Tempers flare at BZA meeting

Cindy DiFazio, Staff Writer

It was the first time Maureen Sheets chaired a meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals. Likewise, it was Andy Scholle’s first evening as a member of the board. It was an evening that would test their mettle. Sheets welcomed a standing-room only crowd of neighbors divided on the only issue on the agenda for the February 27 meeting. That issue was:

1) Larry & Joyce Volz, application for a special exception to permit the ninety-two (92) campsites that have been added to the Delaware Campground.

First up was campground owner, Larry Volz. Volz shared background information regarding the Delaware Campground. He said that he purchased the property in 1977 and put in the campground in 1991. The extra campsites were added in 1999. “It’s like everything else,” Volz explained. “You’re small, you need it to get bigger, we added on.”

“We put a lot of revenue into the county,” Volz went on. “It (the campground) looks good. It’s not going to devalue anybody’s property. It might raise it.”

Chairperson Sheets then shared answers to a questionnaire Volz had filled out for the special exception application. When asked several questions regarding whether the campground would have any detrimental effects on surrounding properties, Volz had answered “no.” Questions regarding whether there was adequate drainage and proper ingress/egress to his property, he had answered “yes.”

Arnold Hunter of Cleves, Ohio, then stepped to the podium in support of Volz. Hunger stated that he has camped at the Delaware Campground for the last five years. “There is not a cleaner or better-run campground,” Hunter asserted. He also stated that Volz was respectful to neighbors and that the campground is well maintained.

A neighbor to the campground, Tom Riggs, painted an entirely different picture for the board. Riggs told the board that he picks up beer cans, bottles and other trash noting, “The garbage trail begins at Highway 350 and ends at the campground.”

He questioned why Volz could put in 92 campsites with “no regard for the law,” pointing out that although the campground was approved for a bathhouse, a permit to build one was never obtained. “Why does the law not apply to him?” an obviously frustrated Riggs wanted to know.

Several times during the meeting both Riggs and Volz became involved in arguments unrelated to the zoning issue, prompting Sheets to caution, “Stick to the subject. These things do not effect what we’re here for tonight.”

At one point, Riggs had questioned what would become of the campground if Volz sold or when he passed away. Speaking for Volz regarding that concern, long-time camper and local realtor, Sue Ann Collins told the board, “They intend for that campground to go to their kids.”

Another neighbor testified that the campground was built when he was a kid, and recalled he was excited to have a place to go where he could play arcade games and buy a cold soda. He stated that the good times were short-lived after being told by Volz not to come in there because he didn’t rent from him. Now, says that neighbor, Volz tells neighborhood kids to stay off the county road that goes to the campground.

Being all of the time allotted for public input, Sheets informed the gathering that a letter had been sent to Volz notifying him that he was in violation. Riggs pointed out that this was a second notice, hinting of favoritism within county government. “Somehow he is on a different level than the rest of us,” Riggs complained. Board member, Roger Lang, commented that during his tenure on the board, “This is the first time he’s (Volz) been in front of us.” Another board member, Denessa Benkie told Riggs, “There have been points made that are valid, and we need to make sure that people follow the rules, but,” she implored, “please be patient while we digest the information.”

Sheets then addressed Volz stating that a letter had been sent to him from Tad Brinson, executive director of the Area Planning Commission, on July 17, 2006 stating that Volz had 30 days to come forward to apply for a special exception. Volz responded that necessary blueprints were not available to him at that time. He admitted that a septic system was installed in 1977 with no permit and that he had later tied it into a dump station. According to information provided by chairperson Sheets, the lines were installed too deep, off-contour and cannot be made right. Volz showed plans to the board, protesting that necessary work had not been done because he has not received approval for plans from the state. Lang responded, “It is my understanding that the plans have been rejected.” Riggs once again interrupted, “These plans are bogus. Where’s your letter of approval?”

Volz stated that three copies of the plans have been mailed to the proper agencies, including the health department and the state. He also said that Earth Tech of Batesville has been hired to do the engineering work.

Having heard all the facts considered pertinent to the issue, Lang motioned to table the application for a special exception until plans get back from the state noting, “This may be a dead issue if the state doesn’t approve the plans.” Benkie seconded and the motion carried.

Following adjournment, emotions on both sides still ran high. Law enforcement was eventually called to the annex to ensure that verbal sparring did not turn into a fistfight.

Arnold Hunter of Cleves, OH, spoke on behalf of the Volz's at the BZA meeting. Seated, applicants Larry and Joyce Volz, owners of the Delaware Campground, look on. Law enforcement was called to the meeting in the end due to tempers flaring and verbal accusations that some thought might erupt into something physical.




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