GATES MILLS — Village Council recently passed three ordinances to curb agricultural land use in the village to keep the forested aesthetic of their community.

In November, Councilwoman Nancy Sogg introduced a series of ordinances to reduce timbering and farming in the community. Despite having an ordinance on the books that bans cutting down trees for profit, five residents were accepted into the Current Agricultural Use Valuation program, according to Law Director Todd Hunt. This timbering program offers tax relief, and was organized through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The ODNR Division of Forestry gives property owners a 50-percent tax reduction on forested acres if landowners use their property for commercial timber production. If residents are participating in these programs, they must keep their timber and forested area healthy by culling trees that may be diseased.

Village officials drafted three ordinances to curb this agricultural use. One ordinance amends the zoning code with an exception to allow tree cutting for economic gain for residents participating in the ODNR programs.

Another ordinance limits the annual revenue that a resident could earn to $2,000. To qualify for CAUV, the land must generate at least $2,500, so this ordinance effectively bans new residents from joining the program. The third ordinance lists various regulations that residents participating in CAUV must follow, such as submitting a cutting plan and paying several fees.

Ms. Sogg asked if other council members heard negative feedback on the proposed ordinances from residents, and no one shared any concerns.

Mayor Karen Schneider asked how the five property owners affected will be notified. Service Director Dave Biggert said that the village will send out a letter and a copy of the ordinance in early January.

“It goes into effect in 30 days,” Mr. Biggert said.

In other news, council passed an ordinance to implement the land reutilization program on vacant or abandoned land in the village. Mr. Hunt explained that land is deemed “nonproductive” typically when it has back real estate taxes and the county is ready to foreclose on the property.

Mr. Hunt said that in Cuyahoga County, it takes several years of back taxes for the county to decide to foreclose. The county would be required to notify the village of their decision to foreclose with an affidavit. Village officials will visit the property to determine if it is vacant or abandoned, and to examine how well it has been maintained, Mr. Hunt said. The new ordinance allows Gates Mills to decide if it would like to acquire the title to that property.

If the village chose to acquire the property, it would not be required to pay back taxes. The village would have to pay court costs, which Mr. Hunt said would be $500.

“You don’t have to take any piece of property that comes along, but if the village is interested in it, you’re notified,” he said.

Mr. Hunt explained that the village could also work through the Cuyahoga Land Bank to avoid foreclosure.

“That’s a little more pricey,” he said. “That will probably cost you around $1,000 because the land bank charges you for their expenses.”

Council passed the ordinance to implement the land reutilization program unanimously on Dec. 11.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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