LOGAN — The Hocking County Board of Commissioners addressed a well-known countywide concern during their meeting Thursday morning: “dilapidated buildings and trash in the county,” as Commissioner Gary Waugh described it.
Waugh mentioned a story entitled “Campsite owner wants to see county address widespread eyesores,” which ran in The Logan Daily News’ Tuesday, June 1 edition. It featured an interview with Lew Barbini, whose family company Hocking Hills Adventures, LLC, operates the Hocking Hills Family Fun Center and Riverside Campground, at 26633 Main St. in Rockbridge.
Barbini and county agencies have been working on how to remove an unsightly burned out home that sits at the campground’s entrance — but to no avail. The only two county agencies that can condemn properties are the health department and the fire department, Waugh later added.
The board met with Hocking County Regional Planning Office Director Audie Wykle Thursday to see what could be done.
“Two of us at least have talked to (Barbini) about this issue,” Waugh said, meaning himself and Commissioner Sandra Ogle. “We’ve told him that there’s really nothing we can do — that we have no authority to do anything like that, he’s to talk to the health department; they can’t do anything. We’re just looking at the possibility of looking at something — maybe how we could do something, because this is not an isolated case — we hear about this all the time.”
Wykle acknowledged the concerns, saying he understands and has noticed the issue, too: “We all have pride in our county, and we know we have a lot of visitors into our county, so things like that just hurt us.”
Wykle suggested the county adopt a building permit program and a countywide ordinance for “nuisances.” Hocking Hills Chamber of Commerce Director Bailey Simons inquired about the potential of a county land bank.
“We’re seeing this more and more,” Simons said. “If you talk to our code enforcement officer now, he has done an amazing job at presenting just how much money we’re losing in our areas because of these buildings that are terrible because we don’t have an established land bank... I think the ordinances are great but we also don’t have a building department, we don’t have anything like that so money’s going out... We’re losing money by diluting our property values.”
Despite apparent “eyesores” and their potential damage to the Hocking Hills tourism industry, safety concerns take precedence with Wykle and the board. Board President Jeff Dickerson also stressed the complications that arise from zoning, and differences between the city and the county. Simons and the board concluded that the inter-agency countywide conversation needs to continue. Wykle also suggested hiring a consultant to advise the county.
Following public comment toward the end of the meeting, Commissioner Ogle summed up the county’s goals: “What we’re wanting is something that says, if that house burned, you have X amount of time to bring it back up to livable condition. And then if you don’t bring it up to a livable condition, then this is what can happen to you.”
Dickerson also inquired into the status of a potential Logan city parking garage which was first discussed by the board and Logan Mayor Greg Fraunfelter in late March, The Logan Daily News previously reported. Simons said there have been developments; however, the commissioners did not see meeting invitations. They will continue to pursue the subject, though, as a part of downtown Logan’s “revitalization,” they said.
Commissioner Ogle also read the May 2021 report from the Hocking County Lodging Occupancy Tax Office. There are 1,249 known lodging units in the county, including six hotels/motels with an additional 282 rooms for a total 1,534 units in the county; 15 units are currently unregistered.
The office’s monthly payment spreadsheet shows 354 businesses; 339 of those units are currently paying taxes; the remaining 15 are delinquent. Eight new businesses registered in May and three new businesses began paying the lodging tax. Dickerson expressed interest in pursuing the delinquent businesses, giving them until “Tax Day,” July 15, to pay their dues.
At the board’s Tuesday, May 25 meeting Commissioner Ogle read the April 2021 report from the Hocking County Animal Control Division.
Ten dogs were returned to their owners, 11 dogs were adopted, four were sent to rescue, two were placed for tag fees, and three were euthanized for a total 30 outdoing dogs.
The warden also collected $280 in miscellaneous fees and conducted five investigations into animal bites, one investigation into animal cruelty, one investigation into livestock violation, three investigations into dog tag violations. The warden issued an additional four other violations and one citation.
The next commissioners meeting will be today (Tuesday, June 8) at 9:30 a.m. in the commissioners’ chambers at the Hocking County Courthouse, 1 E. Main St. Meetings are open to the public and livestreamed on the board’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HockingCommissioners/.
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