On Monday, West Jefferson village council nixed a move by members of Life In Christ Fellowship to incorporate their church into the village.
The church and its 20 surrounding acres are located at 500 State Route 142, N.E.
A resolution supporting annexation deadlocked council in a three-to-three vote with Steve Johnston, Ray Martin and Jim King in support. Council president Ron Garver, as well as members Doug Eakins and Randy Otis, voted against the measure. Member Cory Coburn was absent on Monday.
Church member Larry Lones said annexation would provide rapid police response by village officers. The church, the site of past break-ins, now falls under the jurisdiction of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies are not always in the area.
Garver said the sheriff’s office generally calls on village officers to help with incidents near West Jefferson anyway.
“Protection will stay the same,” Garver said.
Lones said the fellowship plans to expand activities, adding baseball fields, a playground, and possibly a soccer field and amphitheater in the near future.
Mayor Darlene Steele reminded Lones that annexation would require the congregation to pay permit fees for construction of new recreational facilities. It would also mean tap-in fees when village water and sewer lines reach the area.
Garver and Steele voiced strong opposition to annexation, saying it would set a dangerous precedent for others seeking inclusion in the village.
“If we allow one person to do it, we would need to allow everyone (to do it),” Garver said.
He encouraged Lones to defer action until water and sewer lines are installed on State Route 142 and all parcels in the church’s neighborhood are eligible for inclusion in the village.
“In the future, it could all be tied together,” Garver said.
His argument appeared to sway Lones, who then asked to put the proposed annexation on hold.
But King’s motion to approve the resolution was already on the floor, mandating a vote.
Also on Monday, a request by village resident Michelena Aubry to dismiss her zoning citation met with barbed responses from Garver and Steele.
As previously reported, council denied an appeal by Aubry last month to continue owning seven dogs in a residential-area home. Village law currently allows no more than two animals.
Aubry said she wants to establish a kennel in her backyard, saying her dogs are “companion animals” under village law. She asked council to review all village ordinances.
Garver noted Aubry already has a yard fence under construction without the proper permit.
“You are not going to abide by any laws?” he questioned.
Aubry said others in her neighborhood erected fences without obtaining permits.
Steele said Aubry must obtain a fence permit or face legal consequences.
In other routine meeting business on Monday, council members:
• Agreed to buy 350 children’s bike helmets for free distribution at the National Night Out event on Aug. 4. A $3,000 grant from Target will pay for the helmets, as well as biking gear for the police department.
• Agreed to transfer $10,000 from the general fund for pool operations this summer. The money fell within budget parameters set for the pool this summer.
• Added a comma to the village ordinance that limits parking time on village streets to 24 continuous hours. The punctuation correction stemmed from an appeals court ruling that reversed the ticket issued to Andrea Cammelleri for parking her pick-up longer than 24 hours.
The 1989 ordinance missed a comma between the words motor vehicle and camper. Cammelleri argued her truck did not fit the definition of a “motor vehicle camper.” Judge Robert Hendrickson of the 12th Ohio District Court of Appeals said the law’s meaning was unclear and the village should amend it to read differently.
A motion by King to allow on-street parking for 48 continuous hours failed, following a three-to-three vote. Eakins, King and Martin voted to expand parking hours. Garver, Otis and Johnston were against the motion.
Jane Beathard is a contributing writer for The Madison Press.