MANSFIELD, Ohio -- Mansfield City Council, in a 5-3 vote, approved the Mansfield Home Value and Family Protection Act on Tuesday night.
The measure is meant to protect property owners from business activity that has not been approved by the city.
When first discussing this bill in a September council meeting, Law Director John Spon explained, "Its purpose is to protect the residential home values or apartment values or multi-living facilities from the intrusion of any type of business activity, which has not been consented to by the city of Mansfield through its zoning and ordinances."
Spon, who retained his seat in Tuesday's election, used injection wells as an example of business activity that could adversely affect the city and its residents.
He said a company could obtain a permit from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to establish an injection well in a residential area, which, in turn, would diminish the value of nearby properties.
After hearing the first reading, council tabled the bill at the Oct. 6 meeting. The bill was sent back to the zoning committee for discussion. On Tuesday, the zoning committee moved the bill out of committee and into council for its second reading.
Before making that motion, the committee heard differing perspectives on the issue during public comment.
Mansfield resident Laura Burns prefaced her comments by stating, "My job, first of all, is to be a parent and to take care of my family, but my second job is as a biologist working for a Moms Clean Air Force, a special project of the Environmental Defense Fund."
She talked about the health hazards associated with natural gas drilling and/or dumping and encouraged council to consider making Mansfield a "very unappealing location for the oil and gas industry to set up camp."
David Remy, director of Mansfield's Human Resources Department, also addressed council, stating he's "not opposed to the concept" of the bill.
However, he added, "This piece of legislation is not comprehensive enough." He said it was sent back to committee to help remedy that, "and it hasn't been done," he said.
"I don't believe that there's been any motion by anyone to expand the legislation to include the central business district, the Lexington Avenue corridors, the Park Avenue corridors, and I know there's been discussion about making that a separate piece of legislation, but I don't see that as being necessary," he said.
"I believe it can be dealt with in one piece of legislation, and it should be dealt with in one piece of legislation."
Spon, who authored this legislation, responded, "As I indicated before, we need immediate protection for the residentially zoned areas."
He said that he's already working on drafting additional legislation to help protect other residential and business areas, arguing that process is much more complex.
"This is only providing the right of the citizen to sue in the event that their property value is impacted. I cannot imagine why there would be any hesitation to do this," he said.
While discussing the bill during council, Fourth Ward Councilman Butch Jefferson made a motion for the bill to be placed before council for final passage. The motion passed 5-3.
Additional discussion followed the motion.
Second Ward Councilman Jeff Rock asked why this "watered-down version" of the bill should be passed that night instead of a more comprehensive one later on.
"Is there some imminent danger we should be aware of that could happen within the next few weeks, that we couldn't wait for a more comprehensive bill?" he asked.
Spon responded, "It doesn't make sense not to provide immediate protection for all those that are in solely the residential areas.
"As I indicated, the development and the research and the analysis and drafting of these other zoned areas is more complex. It has to be done more carefully.
"Secondly, it's very clear that if there's any damage to any homes in our community, there is no insurance that covers any contamination of properties; there is no insurance available to pay for any seismic events."
He finished by stating, "Let's protect someone now, and then we'll continue to try to protect all of the other citizens in our city."
Jefferson echoed Spon's sentiments.
"Anytime council can represent and do something to benefit the citizens, I don't know why we would hesitate," he said.
First Ward Councilman Mike Hill questioned why the bill needed to be passed that evening--election night--without having the typical three readings "unless it's really an emergency," he said.
"Politics have nothing to do with this," Spon said. "The risk that we've been talking about has existed for a long period of time; however, it's only been in 2015 that the federal government for the first time came out and conclusively established that injection wells, not fracking wells, but injection wells indisputably cause seismic events.
"It has everything to do with providing immediate protection."