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Planning Commission is working

May 22, 2012
By JIM PIRKO - Community Columnist ( , Tribune Chronicle |

Trumbull County should be proud of our Planning Commission. Working in the aging Wean Building on Park Avenue, a small, dedicated team of experienced professionals are doing work that is seen by few but benefits so many.

The primary task of a county planning commission is the regulation of real estate parcel subdivisions. This is necessary to assure buyers that their property boundaries make sense, and that they will have access and practical use of their properties. In many counties, the Planning Commission is limited to this single function.

Fortunately, Trumbull County goes above and beyond, having our Planning Commission work with Community Development Block Grants, census updates, current and comprehensive planning, economic development, environmental preservation, GIS mapping, grant writing, housing rehabilitation and repair projects, park, greenway and bike trail planning, and flood plain management.

Preparing a comprehensive plan is a valuable service our Planning Commission offers to our communities. The work they did for Weathersfield provided a wealth of useful information about the history, geology, utilities and development of our township, for a very reasonable cost.

Whenever our county commissioners or people in our communities face a situation that requires innovative thinking, detailed research and action, they have this talent pool on call. Working as part of many collaborative teams, our Planning Commission staff has contributed to the success of many efforts that have improved the lives of so many families.

Bringing safe water and sanitary sewers into neighborhoods has been a Planning Commission duty since the 1980s, with the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Every year, a share of these limited funds paid to install these utilities into low-to-moderate income neighborhoods, but there was never enough CDBG funding to supply them all. Trumbull County townships have numerous old platted subdivisions from the early 20th century that sold lots to homebuilders without considering the need for indoor plumbing.

Our Planning Commission staff became very skilled at leveraging limited CDBG with other funding sources, including the Ohio Public Works Commission and U.S. Department of Agriculture. This became a major priority when the Ohio EPA sued the Trumbull County Board of Health and won a consent agreement for Trumbull County to build sanitary sewers in neglected neighborhoods, and crack down on homeowners with septic tanks.

Working with our county sanitary engineer's office, our Planning Commission developed a countywide blueprint for sewer construction in 2008, and has obtained millions for construction, with even more to be done.

The foreclosure crisis and epidemic of abandoned blight infesting our neighborhoods was addressed by our Planning Commission in 2007, with the assistance of Richard Cordray, who was then serving as our state treasurer. The Save Our Homes Task Force developed resources, including a team of lawyers to help families facing foreclosure, to prevent them from abandoning their homes.

Housing rehabilitation programs helped many families repair and stay in their homes. Demolition of abandoned homes that were beyond repair became another priority, with our Planning Commission bringing Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds to demolish more than 200 blighted houses throughout Trumbull County.

Flood plain management started in 1978, as a part of the national flood insurance program. Our Planning Commission continues to update the flood plain maps and regulations, to protect property owners from these disasters. Using Clean Ohio funds, Trumbull County has preserved areas subject to flood damage, especially along Mosquito Creek.

Economic development to provide jobs is another priority of our Planning Commission. Working with our Regional Chamber of Commerce, our Planning Commission provides information and resources to assist manufacturing industries to locate and expand in Trumbull County. Our entire county is eligible to provide enterprise zone incentives for businesses, thanks to the insight of our Planning Commission in the 1980s.

There are so many more accomplishments, like obtaining grants to install solar panels on the roof of the Jobs and Family Services Building to save taxpayers money on electric bills. The bottom line is that our Trumbull County Planning Commission does so much, and deserves a few words of gratitude.

Pirko is a Weathersfield resident.



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