Archbold, OH
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Public Business Not Secret

The Archbold Planning Commission must do the public’s business in the open, rather than in secret.

At an April 18 APC meeting, the owners and operators of Tri-Flo, Inc., a propane gas and agricultural fertilizer business, wanted property rezoned from residential to business.

The property is bounded on two sides by land zoned for residential use, including property Fairlawn Retirement Community is considering for the construction of more duplexes for seniors.

Tri-Flo owners did not wish to divulge its plans for the property. Two APC members, Don Spohler and Marcia Cody, had concerns as to what type of business would go on the land.

After the horrendous explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, there were serious issues to consider. But APC was told the Tri-Flo operation is nothing like the Texas plant. Also, Tri-Flo owners said Ohio does a much better job regulating than does Texas.

The owners said they wouldn’t stock any chemicals they don’t currently offer, and with a 30-plus year safety record, that was enough for Spohler, although not enough for Cody. Spohler’s yes vote was enough to get the issue passed.

Tri-Flo released enough information to sway the vote, without revealing detailed plans.

Jim Wyse, Archbold mayor and an APC member, asked about ways to get business information, such as Tri-Flo’s future plans, without making them public.

Archbold Planning Commission business is public business. If APC needs to know a company’s plans, citizens deserve the same information.

Laws regarding secret meetings are detailed in Ohio Revised Code 121.22, also known as the Sunshine Law. It is important to open the doors of government and allow the light to shine in. It’s the right of every citizen to know the public’s business.

There is no law that allows a local planning commission to discuss future business plans in secret.

Imagine if someone wanted to rezone residential property for a refinery, or a junkyard, or a strip club? (Not saying such businesses wouldn’t be good neighbors.) Shouldn’t citizens have a right to know?

How many steps does it take to get from Tri-Flo’s relatively benign business to something really nasty and undesirable?

Government business, including what could be built next door to you, is public information. Government officials represent you, the public, and it is your right to know.

Otherwise, hope that when a sign goes up next door that says, “COMING SOON: HOT BABES,” it’s an industry that manufactures baby blankets.

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