Zoning decisions aren’t always easy

Published 3:24 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This month makes 28 years I’ve been covering municipal boards like the Columbiana zoning board of adjustments.

It also makes 28 years I’ve asked myself why in the world the good people who make up these governing bodies agree to serve in these thankless jobs.

I asked myself that question again last week after writing the story about Columbiana’s zoning board decision to grant a variance for a home that had become an abandoned eyesore here.

The issue was not a simple one. It involved an owner who allegedly didn’t follow the laws governing how close a building can be constructed next to a very busy roadway, even after he was granted some additional leeway.

That original owner of the home soon defaulted on other obligations, resulting in a mess that left a local bank with a partially-constructed home and the city with a structure quickly becoming an eyesore and maybe even a hazard.

No sooner had I posted the story online last week, the comments — and criticism of the board’s action — began. Unfortunately, it seems as if some who commented didn’t actually read the story.

One reader chastised the Columbiana City Council for not acting sooner. Too bad the council wasn’t involved in the issue at all.

People who serve on these boards aren’t typically paid, and if they are, the pay falls way short of covering expenses or their time.

These boards usually meet at night, when its members otherwise would be at home, relaxing, enjoying their families. Instead, they are grappling with issues and closed up in a room working to make decisions on your behalf.

Next time you choose to criticize the actions of members of local governing boards, ask yourself if you would have been willing to sacrifice the time and make the effort — and take the criticism — to do the job they did on your behalf.

If your answer is yes, I’ll bet a number of boards in your community would welcome your service.