After more than a dozen people recently signed a letter asking St. Albans Township trustees to “immediately suspend and remove Denise Martin” from the zoning commission, the trustees announced at a meeting on Tuesday night that Martin had submitted a short letter of resignation on Monday.
“This is to inform you that as of today, Monday, April 10, 2023, I am officially resigning my position as Secretary/Member of the St. Albans Township Zoning Commission,” Martin wrote.
The letter from residents said they believed that a company Martin co-owns, Martin Trucking, which is the proposed site for one of two asphalt manufacturing plants proposed along Raccoon Creek on the northwest and southeast sides of Alexandria, had violated some of the zoning regulations Martin was charged with upholding as a member of the commission.
“Her obvious and blatant disregard of the regulations constitutes not only misconduct in office, but a violation of public trust that renders her unfit to serve on the Zoning Commission,” the letter says.
Those concerns also were expressed directly to her and fellow zoning commission members during Thursday’s meeting, during which Martin lashed out at a neighbor of the Martin Trucking.
“I’m done with you! You can leave!” Martin shouted after berating the neighbor, who raised a concern about a possible conflict of interest for Martin. She was seated with her fellow commission members at the front of the room at the time.
Trustees opened their meeting on Tuesday night by acknowledging that the Thursday zoning commission meeting had been raucous, and that they expected decorum at their meeting. They also quickly announced that Martin had resigned.
They also said that they recognized that many residents were in attendance because of concerns about the proposed asphalt plants. There are also new concerns in the township after the Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District announced last week that it recently purchased about 100 acres in St. Albans Township in anticipation of providing water and sewage-treatment services to current and future homes and businesses in western Licking County. The land is east of Rt. 37 between Rt. 16 on the north and Morse Road on the south.
The water and sewer district’s news is raising concerns that access to new water- and sewage-treatment facilities will fuel rapid growth and development in the rural areas between Granville and New Albany. The St. Albans Township Trustees will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the township fire house in Alexandria.
St. Albans Township trustees said Tuesday that they do not have any authority over the proposed asphalt plants — that any local decision on the proposals would be handled by the township zoning board of appeals.
At the end of February, two Shelly Company affiliates expressed interest in installing asphalt plants on the southeast and northwest sides of Alexandria in St. Albans Township. This prompted immediate concern from both St. Albans Township residents and Granville residents about possible pollution.
The proposed manufacturing facilities, which would use petroleum products mixed with gravel, would sit along Raccoon Creek, which contributes to the drinking water supply for Granville and Alexandria.
One of the asphalt plants is proposed just east of Rt. 37 at 1434 Tharp Road on land owned by James Geiger. It’s on the southeast side of Alexandria, and Shelly Materials already has a facility there. St. Albans Township Zoning Inspector Tom Frederick said a concrete-mixing plant also is proposed for that property.
The second location for an asphalt plant, according to Frederick’s post on the township website, is at 2915 Johnstown Alexandria Road. It is on Martin Trucking property owned by Donald and Denise Martin, on Rt. 37 on the northwest side of Alexandria, according to the Licking County Auditor’s website.
Until Martin’s resignation, people associated with both properties held positions on township boards. Colleen Geiger, who is James Geiger’s wife, has a seat on the St. Albans zoning board of appeals.
Ben Zanks, who lives next door to Martin Trucking, was among those who expressed concern about the potential conflicts of interest.
“I want to address Denise Martins’ seat on this board,” Zanks said at last Thursday’s meeting when Martin lashed out at him from her seat on the zoning panel. “In the past, she has done construction projects with no permits and has failed to let anyone know about them. Luckily for me, they were right outside my daughter’s bedroom window when she decided to pour her cement slab.”
Zanks said the close proximity of his house to Martin Trucking affects his children’s ability to play outside without breathing in dust from the gravel and concrete-mixing on the site. Last month, he said in an interview that he is concerned not only for the health and safety of his family, but also for the future of the Alexandria community if the two asphalt plants are allowed.
Zanks received a big round of applause from many of the approximately 60 people in attendance.
He began to add a concluding statement after the applause, but Denise Martin interrupted him and shouted, “I have the floor Mr. Zanks! You have never once, not once approached us about anything on our property.”
Zanks said that wasn’t true and that he had contacted her company in the past.
Later in the meeting, Martin apologized to the audience for her outbursts, and four days later, she resigned.
Jack Wolf writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of the Denison University Journalism Program, which is sponsored in part by the Mellon Foundation.