Jerome Township officials have hired the former zoning inspector to review a pair of proposed new neighborhoods.
At a recent meeting, the Jerome Township trustees appropriated $7,000 for G2 Consulting to review the design for two new neighborhoods in Jerome Village. Gary Smith, who served as the township’s zoning officer, owns the firm.
“It’s not that I don’t have the capacity or the ability to do this,” said Mark Spagnuolo, the current township zoning inspector. “What I don’t have is enough time to do all this.”
Spagnuolo said zoning work, along with the number of zoning appeals, has “increased significantly” over the last year. He added that in the past, plans were often not given the attention they needed.
“I am playing 13 years of catch up in 18 months,” Spagnuolo said.
He said he is already working 10 to 12 hours each day. He said additional design review work takes away from his ability to do his day-to-day tasks.
“There is not enough manpower on staff or hours to do this and do that,” Spagnuolo said.
He added, “This is the only thing I can offload and I want to take advantage of that in any way I can.”
Spagnuolo said there is a “short list” of firms he can hire to do the plan design review and one is already working on a significant project for the township. Prior to the trustees’ meeting, the township zoning commission met and unanimously recommended using G2 Consulting and approving the fees.
Township officials said the developer, not the township, is responsible for paying the consultant’s design review fees. The township will pay the consultant, and the developer will reimburse the township.
“That is being paid out of the applicant’s pocket so it’s not really coming out of our pockets,” Spagnuolo said.
He said the code deferring the cost to the developer was written to protect the township in a situation like this.
Rhodes said that while Spagnuolo is an architect, not a planner, he is still more than capable of reviewing plans.
“When you are dealing with PUDs (Planned Unit Development), you want it done right,” Rhodes said.
But, Spagnuolo said if he doesn’t have time, he has no other options.
“Who else at the township has time to review all these and write the staff reports?” Spagnuolo asked.
The zoning inspector expressed frustration about the township’s willingness to spend money for many things, but not to hire on-staff zoning assistance
“It is the simply the fact that there is such a workload, combined with a desire not to bring in additional help,” Spagnuolo said.
Smith actually left the township based on the workload of the zoning position. When he resigned in August of 2016, he said he was hired as a part time official but he was working more than part-time hours and that was taking away from his consulting business.
After a nearly hour-long executive session, the board also voted to pay Don Brosuis $12,000 for legal services provided as a result of the tow new neighborhoods.
“This is all being reimbursed back to us,” Rhodes said of the legal fees as well as the design review fees.
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