Warren County OKs zoning changes despite wedding center dispute

Larry Pockras, one of 26 residents opposed to a wedding center under construction on Robinson-Vail Road in Warren County, was unable to convince the county commissioners to reject proposed changes to the county zoning code adding a classification for wedding centers. LAWRENCE BUDD/STAFF

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Larry Pockras, one of 26 residents opposed to a wedding center under construction on Robinson-Vail Road in Warren County, was unable to convince the county commissioners to reject proposed changes to the county zoning code adding a classification for wedding centers. LAWRENCE BUDD/STAFF

The Warren County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved — with one exception — wide-ranging changes proposed to the rural zoning code, despite objections from residents upset by rules permitting wedding centers in residential areas.

After doubling the minimum lot size for a wedding center in a residential area from five to 10 acres, commissioners unanimously approved close to 100 pages of amended regulations for land use in unincorporated areas of the county.

The proposed changes touch on everything from the board of zoning appeals, site-plan reviews, planned-unit developments, mixed-use zones regulations and residential uses to community and essential service uses, commercial business and service uses, professional and personal service uses, industrial manufacturing, research and supply services, and access management.

RELATED: Wedding center questions stall Warren County zoning changes

The vote came after a second debate between the commissioners, a resident and lawyers for the county and for 26 residents on Robinson-Vail Road in Franklin Twp. who are trying to block completion of a wedding center already under construction on their road.

The project was approved under rules enabling conditional use of property otherwise zoned for development for single- or multi-family homes for commercial purposes.

“Our zoning code allows these uses,” Assistant County Prosecutor Bruce McGary said. “If you don’t want that next to you, you can buy that property or not.”

Commissioner Shannon Jones said the proposed changes were “just providing clarity” to the county zoning code, not directly related to the Robinson-Vail dispute.

“That’s why we’re in court, to find out who’s right and who’s wrong,” lawyer John Phillips said.

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Phillips said “my people are lining up” for a petition drive to force a November referendum on the zoning code changes.

The lawyers then went across Justice Drive to the common pleas court building where they met privately with Judge Donald Oda II over an appeal to county’s approval of the 11,000-square-foot wedding center on Robinson-Vail.

A ruling is expected on the case in Oda’s court within six weeks.

The residents also filed a lawsuit directly in the 12th District Court of Appeals in Middletown, challenging Oda’s decision not to stop construction on the wedding center while the appeal was pending.

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