EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) — The business community in East Palestine has launched a petition expressing displeasure with the recently passed village council ordinance.
The petition, which had 25 signatures as of Tuesday, focuses on the new job vacancy regulations. The ordinance requires property owners to pay a fee to register their vacant properties.
Don Elzer owns several buildings in downtown East Palestine, some of which are vacant. Now, Elzer must register his vacant buildings with the village administration and pay a fee of $400 per building.
“They claim that this will help eliminate vacant properties. That’s nothing to do with that. What they’re doing is driving business and development out of town,” Elzer said.
East Palestine MP Brandon Runnion voted in favor of the vacancy ordinance, which passed in a 4-3 vote.
“The buildings have mostly been vacant since I was in middle school, elementary school. We’re talking 10-plus years,” Runnion said.
The ordinance requires registration of the following fees on all vacant properties, all of which will be doubled to five years:
- Residential construction $200
- Commercial building $400
- Industrial Building $600
Vacancy building plans as well as inspections are also required.
“If they’re actively trying to sell, lease, lease, it’s waived and they don’t have to pay any extra,” Runnion said.
Karen Christian owns an assisted living center in a former school near downtown. She and six other business owners spoke about her dissatisfaction with the village government.
“The business environment is not right at this time. It’s too stressful for small business owners to do that, that’s my personal opinion,” Christian said.
“If I decided not to rent it for a while and they charged me, I’d be really upset,” former business owner Bill Strohecker said.
The group’s consensus is that the East Palestine Council is anti-business.
“They don’t come to the business, they don’t show up and say, ‘Hey, what can we do for you? What can we do for you?'” said former business owner Nathan Foster.
“I don’t agree with that, no. We all try to provide as much support as we can on the ground,” Runnion said.
The group wants eastern Palestine to become more like Colombia.
Diana Elzer mentions a businessman who moved there.
“He said the difference between doing business in East Palestine and doing business in Colombia is night and day,” she said.
The business group said East Palestine had “slum lords” that needed to be dealt with, but the vacancy ordinance was also hurting the good people of the community.
Runnion said he was willing to speak to business owners to resolve their concerns, or they could speak at a council meeting.