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Bluffton council meeting summary for July 24

Accessory Dwelling Units discussion scheduled for August 2

The 29 page packet for this meeting is attached HERE.

By Andy Chappell-Dick

Bluffton Village Council met at Town Hall on July 24 with a familiar agenda (pages 1-2):  hear committee reports, vote on legislation, and oversee the activities of Village administration. I would have said there's nothing better to watch on a Monday night, but while we were four in the public gallery, I have it on good authority that at that very hour several hundred citizens had packed in cheek to jowl at another hall two blocks south to watch a movie about Barbie. I took heart; few of them were voters.

Reporting first for the Ordinance Committee, Councilor Mitch Kingsley raised the topic of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The committee has long wanted to address a possible update to the Village's zoning ordinance. With the near-completion of the collaborative Bluffton Beyond Tomorrow comprehensive plan, said Kingsley, "we ask with apprehension, is zoning now on the table?"  ADUs have long existed in Bluffton, and with some inquiries about building new ones coming in, Village Administrator Jesse Blackburn was asking the committee if the present rules might need a modernization. 

A systematic look at how other communities have handled the trend is underway, and the committee meets again on August 2 at 5 p.m. to continue talks.  Like all Village meetings, it's open to the public.

Councilor Ben Stahl summarized a recent meeting of the Tree Commission, highlighting the ongoing replanting of trees throughout the Riley Creek Village neighborhood, planning for the new SRK-adjacent soccer fields, and an outbreak of black mold that seems to be afflicting serviceberry trees.

Hurrying through the legislation summary to get to the Administrator's report, you might miss some juicy bits. Five bills were considered. (Packet pages 9-18)

- Passing its final reading was a contract for three more years of trash pickup.  

- Three separate bills dealing with funding of utility work passed their second readings. The Village Administrator showed Council a map of where these three projects will take place; not only the underground pipes but the precise location of leaks and deterioration. He explained that the Street Department's use of GIS mapping gives workers a pinpoint view of hidden infrastructure.  Councilor Joe Sehlhorst praised the technology and said he was grateful that the Village "is no longer guessing" about underground work, which saves time and money.  Nonetheless, admiration was expressed for previous generations who relied on index cards and memory for this data.  

- The fifth resolution was interesting: an emergency resolution amending this year's budget to allow purchase of a new police cruiser immediately.  Chief Ryan Burkholder explained that Ford has announced the Explorer police model is to be discontinued, and a replacement will not be introduced until 2025. In order to secure one of the last, payment must be made in advance rather than on delivery.  Fiscal Officer Kevin Nickel confirmed the appropriation into the police capital fund was in place, it was just a matter of spending ahead of schedule.  Council approved the change.

Village Administrator Jesse Blackburn, often with help from Assistant Bryan Llyod, always has timely updates of "on-the-ground" operations throughout the village. (Packet page 19)

We heard a couple of satisfying anecdotes of how a crew has been dragging a chain through a 10" sewer main under I-75 in an effort to unclog it and avoid having to bore a new line, and how some last-minute sleuthing turned up an aging water main that was on the verge of being paved over in the new bike path project--plans were devised to install a replacement and avoid the specter of tearing into new work.  

That section of the Pedestrian Pathway along SR 103 is set to begin as early as August 14. The County Line Road portion is still in limbo while overhead lines owned by Brightspeed still haven't been moved by that company.

Mayor Johnson presented a request for temporary street closing of the College Avenue bridge for BHS senior football and cheerleader street painting on August 8 (rain date Aug. 13), which was approved by council.

Fire Chief Jon Kinn reported that all but one of the fire trucks recently passed their pump tests; a leaky valve on the aerial ladder failed that vehicle but a repair is scheduled. He also mentioned the recent passing of Harry Osborne, who had served 25 years in the Department in addition to his other public service. 

Police Chief Ryan Burkholder said his Department's statistics for the month of June were in the Council packet. (Pages 21-28.) There were 717 calls for service, 40 traffic stops with 5 citations issued, and a total of 19 criminal complaints were processed.

Finally, Lt. Matt Oglesbee spoke up during the Public Comment section to highlight the August 1 National Night Out event.  It will take place at the Bluffton pool with fireworks to follow. Once again, Council members were invited to help grill hot dogs.

At the request of Blackburn, Council voted themselves into Executive Session to discuss "sale and/or purchase of property."

The next regular meeting of the Bluffton council will be Monday, August 14.