Logging leaves Liberty in a lurch
LIBERTY — Behind homes off Sampson Drive and Virginia Trail and Academy Drive, piles of brush lay scattered among large stumps, and the area is covered in wheel ruts.
According to township resident Steve Stoyak, logging has been going on in the residential zones for a few months, but residents have begun reckoning with the remnants now that many of those working the land have left.
“It affects greatly the aesthetics of the township,” Stoyak said. “It wasn’t clear cut, there are still some very small trees still standing. But as somebody said, it looks like a war zone.”
Township Administrator Martha Weirick said the trees “are being harvested and I assume the timber is being sold. I do not have any knowledge of the property owners’ future plans.”
According to the Trumbull County Auditor’s Office, the parcel behind Sampson Drive is owned by Martin E. Slaubaugh, Marianne Slaubaugh, William Albert Miller and Esther Miller. The Academy Drive parcel is owned by S & P (Sam and Paul) Liberty LLC, and the Virginia Trail parcel is in a trust held by Trustee Lora M. Friedkin.
Attempts to reach these parties were not successful, though township Trustee Devon Stanley stated in an email that he had been in contact with the logging company working behind Sampson Drive, Oakview Lumber LLC, and discussed cleanup options.
Options included, but were not limited to, “the use of a wood processor to eliminate branches and limbs from behind the homeowners’ yards. He also is considering the planting of a clover strip as a buffer to address the view of the logged acres from residents’ backyards,” according to Stanley.
Attempts to contact Oakview and another logging group that has worked in the area, Northeast Logging Lumber, also were unsuccessful.
Debris remaining on the property, Stoyak explained, is contrary to Liberty Township’s 2010 Home Rule Resolution. Language in the resolution is intended to regulate commercial timbering.
Leaving debris on the property following timbering constitutes a $250 fine upon a first offense, with incremental increases leading up to a $1,000 fine upon the fourth and all subsequent offenses.
Stoyak believes enforcement and penalties for violating the resolution should be strengthened.
“I’d like to have the zoning director speak to the entity and put a time frame on it, say ‘OK, in 30 days this will be cleaned up, if not, $250; another 30 days, if not, $500; another 30 days, if not, $750; and if the logging entity continues to ignore the requirements of the resolution that they be fined up to the maximum amount,” Stoyak said.
Stoyak said he has asked township Trustees Arnie Clebone, Greg Cizmar and Stanley, as well as zoning manager Jim Rodway, why “they will not enforce the home rule resolution that’s on the books,” but said he’s received no response.
“I have no idea why that is, and no one wants to explain it to me,” Stoyak said.
Weirick explained that the logging companies likely are to face fines once the job is complete, though she did not specify a date.
“Unfortunately, logging is not regulated by zoning or EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), it’s agricultural,” Weirick said.
Stanley responded to a request for comment via email, citing the township’s law director Patrick Wilson.
In the email, Stanley stated, “Townships are specifically prohibited from using home rule resolutions to regulate agriculture or the development of natural resources. Cities have broad home rule authority under the Ohio Constitution, however, townships do not.
Township home rule authority is limited by statute (which) prohibits townships from using home rule to regulate agriculture or the conservation or development of natural resources beyond what nonhome rule townships can regulate.
“(T)ownships cannot regulate agriculture on lots of five acres or more. (State code) defines agriculture as including timber. So at the time this resolution was adopted, and now, the regulations on cleaning up after timbering can apply only to lots of one acre or less in platted subdivisions.”
At a recent township trustees meeting this month, Weirick said she wrote to state and local officials asking for a meeting to demonstrate the “devastation and lasting damage left by those who harvest residential timber.” The township requested that the legislature amend laws for logging.
“It’s hoping that down the road we can avoid these situations,” Weirick said.