Residents express concerns over planned group home on Galion’s west side


GALION —The actual meeting part of Tuesday’s City Council meet was anti-climactic, compared to the first part.

Galion area residents let their feelings be known about two issues during the comment part of the meeting.

A big concern for Galion residents on the west side of town is the possibility that a group home may be built in the area of Hessenaur Drive, at 305 Wildflower Road.

Bill Sherron was the first resident from the group in attendance to speak. He stated his concerns that residents in that neighborhood had purchased homes or bought land because of property convenants or restrictions that protected their investment. He said a “group home” would violate those restrictions.

The property restrictions state that a business is not allowed within the neighborhood, he said.

“What can the city do to help us?” he asked.

City Law Director Thomas Palmer said there was little the city can do.

He clarified his stance from a legal perspective, giving residents description of his job as law director.

“I was elected by the citizens of Galion to represent the City. I do not represent residents in this position. My job is to protect the city of Galion,” said Palmer.

Still, Palmer said he was aware of the situation involving a group home on Wildflower Road. He said he had looked into Galion’s laws and ordinances to see if the city did have legal standing with regard to the group home.

“In 2009, the City of Galion did pass an ordinance concerning “group residential facilities” as part of its current Planning and Zoning Code,” Palmer said. “The ordinance states that such facilities are ‘permitted by right in any zoning district that permits single-family dwellings.’ The lot in question is in a zoning district that allows single-family dwellings.”

The legislation Palmer referenced can be found at 1175.06 of the City of Galion Codified Ordinances.

Based on that ordinance, Palmer believes that the city has no say in the situation.

Sherron asked if any permits had been acquired from the city, and whether or not they were residential or business.

City employee Bob Johnston said that residential permits had been issued for the property.

City council member Tammy Siclair-Erlsten was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, but was reached for comment later. Erlsten lives on Wildflower Road, near where the group home is to be located.

She said she understands the concerns of her neighbors and friends.

“As soon as I was made aware of the plans for a group home in this neighborhood, I started to do research for similar cases. I’ve spoken to Law Director Thomas Palmer numerous times for clarification and asked numerous questions,”she said. “I take my position with city council seriously, and I want to represent my Ward as best I can regardless of any personal opinion in this or any case.”

The group home is being built by Residential Home Association, of Marion, also known as RHAM. Siclair-Erlsten arranged a meeting between concerned residents and RHAM executive director Adam Guinther recently at the Galion Public Librarys.

At the meeting, Guinther discussed plans for the home and talked about the residents who would be living there.

Guinther said the four-bedroom home would house developmentally disabled individuals who would be supervised by one individual at all times. The value of the home is estimated to be upward of $200,000 and will keep in line with the design and style of other homes in the neighborhood.

While some residents, like those in attendance at Tuesday’s city council meeting, have vocally opposed this project, others in the neighborhood have spoken on social media sites about their support of the group home and those who might live there.

At the conclusion of comments during City Council on Tuesday, Mayor Tom O’Leary addressed residents and referred back to their land covenants after resident James Fink stated that he had spoken to an attorney on his own.

“We have our zoning and ordinances as a city, but that is trumped by the Ohio Revised Code which Mr.Palmer stated earlier. However, hiring the right lawyer who specializes in such cases by going together as a group for a consultation may not be a bad idea for you in order to get some council and advice,” said O’Leary. “You do have standing.”

Steve Rowan, who lives on Ohio 61, voiced his concerns over the current speed limit on Ohio 61 between Ohio 30 and Ohio 309, heading out of Galion. This stretch of road includes Heritage Baptist Church as well as private residences.

Rowan said the current speed limit of 50 mph is often ignored by drivers going much faster. He suggested a reduction in speed limits to 40 or even 35 miles per hour.

He also made council aware of an ongoing issue with trash being dumped into the Olentangy River along Cummins Road. Rowan said that he has reported it to the city multiple times, but it remains a problem.

Council members and officials thanked Rowan for his comments and concerns.

By Erin Miller

Galion Inquirer

Contact Erin Miller at emiller@aimmediamidwest.com or 419-468-1117 x-2049.