Copley examines limited Home Rule

COPLEY — Residents packed Copley Town Hall on July 11 for a special meeting to discuss the issue of the board’s adoption of restricted self-governance and whether voters could decide the issue at general elections on 8 November.
“We have the power to implement autonomy, but we wouldn’t do it without a public vote,” Administrator Jim Schulte said.
Limited Home Rule is a form of government that allows townships with a population of 2,500 or more to pass legislation that is not specifically prohibited by the Ohio Revised Code (ORC). Townships with populations over 15,000, including Copley, can enact limited self-government with a unanimous vote of the board.
If the ballot issue is approved by voters in November, Limited Home Rule would come into effect in Copley on Jan. 1 and for a minimum of three years, when the council would be allowed to reassess whether it should remain in effect.
Schulte said the most immediate impact of passing Home Rule would be the township’s ability to issue fines of up to $1,000 to property owners in violation of the township’s already established property maintenance code. Currently, based on the ORC, enforcement of violations must be pursued in court, which can be a costly undertaking, Schulte said.
“I am very suspicious of government excesses, but it can be good to have an intermediate step [in the form of] a fine,” he said.
Schulte added that the biggest issue with limited autonomy in Copley involves stormwater regulations, specifically a proposed plan by Summit County to levy a $700,000-a-year levy on Copley to meet standards. minimum stormwater regulations.
“The township now pays less than $2,000 a year to meet minimum standards,” Schulte said, adding that limited Home Rule would allow Copley to establish its own water district in predominantly commercial areas where homeowners have asked for water and sewer.
Residents have expressed concern that the establishment of a water district could negatively impact the rural nature of the township; whether or not the restricted autonomy would allow the canton to institute an income tax; and whether Summit County would still regulate activities such as septic system inspections if Limited Home Rule were to pass.
Administrator Scott Dressler responded, saying septic tank inspections are a requirement of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and would continue to be conducted by the county. He also said the township would not be able to levy income tax under the limited local self-government.
According to the ORC, restricted autonomy covers a limited number of areas, in particular: the ability to issue citations; obligation of three readings of the legislation before its adoption, except for emergency measures; extending funding periods for equipment purchases; authorizes the regulation of adult entertainment establishments and the residence of sex offenders or child victims; and allowing civil fines of up to $1,000 for property maintenance code violations.
The ORC also notes that restricted self-government does not allow townships to enact laws or taxes not authorized by the ORC or to alter or modify its existing form of government. Additionally, the Limited Home Rule does not allow townships to make or revise subdivision regulations; road construction standards; storm water or drainage or building regulations; or regulations related to hunting, trapping, fishing, or the use or sale of firearms.
Dressler noted that gun regulations have been a concern of residents in the past under limited local autonomy. Administrator Bruce Koellner pointed out that limited Home Rule would not give the township the power to enact new laws, but would provide the ability to better enforce already established laws.
“It takes that [authority] away from the county of the state and bring it home,” Koellner said.
During the regular trustees meeting that followed the special meeting, Police Chief Michael Mier said he received 10 calls related to fireworks violations from July 1-10. Schulte praised the council for not opting out of state law, saying that would have been an excess of government power.
Administrator Janice Marshall reported that the township received a letter from Spring Garden Waldorf School officials and residents of Jacoby Road expressing traffic, drainage and other concerns related to a proposed development on Jacoby Road.
The trustees also approved:
• an agreement with part-time patrol officers in effect from January 1 to December 31, 2024, which includes a 13% increase in the first year to bring the officer’s salary to the same level as that of firefighters and a 3% increase the second and third years;
• the sale of six retired police department vehicles through GovDeals.com;
• Purchased $7,500 in fire gear and accepted a $661 grant from the Ohio Department of Public Safety – Division of Emergency Medical Services for firefighter training and equipment ;
• submission of a letter of support for a University of Akron project to purchase additional property in the Little Farms neighborhood adjacent to the Panzner Wetlands; and
• an agreement for the developer of Swan Lake to place the funds necessary for the repair of the Swan Lake dam in an escrow account for the works.
The Copley trustees will then meet July 25 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 1540 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road. The meeting can also be viewed at www.copley.oh.us under “Government” and “Board of Trustees Meeting Videos”.

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