The Senate Local Government, Public Safety & Veterans Affairs Committee took testimony, March 7 regarding SB43 which would enable limited home rule townships to adopt building codes regardless of any similar codes adopted by the county in which the township resides.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Park) said his proposal would let residents and businesses in certain limited home rule townships obtain building permits at the township level, which would be more convenient than seeking permits from county departments.

He said the change was requested by Blendon Township, which would like to adopt its own codes.

He said that township has a commercial building department because Franklin County doesn’t have one, but is unable to open a residential building department because the county does have a residential operation.

Having both departments, he said, would make the process more efficient because Ohioans would only have to visit one jurisdiction to address all their permit needs. The change, he added, would allow builders to work with a single inspector on all projects.

Sen. Bacon told Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London) that the bill would not address any local zoning restrictions.

Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) questioned whether counties and townships could come to different decisions on permit applications. Sen. Bacon said the codes would be similar, but acknowledged that different people could have different views on code interpretation.

The sponsor also told Sen. Sykes that there is nothing in the bill that lets counties object to qualifying townships creating their own departments.

Responding to Sen. Joe Uecker (R-Loveland), Sen. Bacon said the proposed structure is similar to the process that many cities already follow, in which the county is not involved.

Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Adena) said he has experience in residential and commercial construction, and raised concerns that the shift could “muddy the waters” in terms what governmental entity is responsible for permitting. “This could become an extreme nightmare if we make it more convoluted than it already is,” he said.

Sen. Bacon said it is his goal that the bill makes the process go more smoothly, not create confusion. “We’re changing nothing about the process,” he added, noting that the bill only creates new township authority.

Sen. Sykes said he wanted to avoid potential conflicts between counties and townships, and asked why the bill declares that township codes will prevail.

Sen. Bacon said that issue would be reviewed.