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Published: Thursday, 12/27/2012

Garn retiring as Perrysburg Township zoning inspector after 13 years on the job

BY REBECCA CONKLIN KLEIBOEMER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
"I have a number of projects to finish up here at home," said Grant Garn, Perrysburg Twp. zoning inspector, of the Louisiana Avenue home he shares with wife Susan. "Our house has been under construction for 35 years now." Garn is retiring after 13 years on the job. "I have a number of projects to finish up here at home," said Grant Garn, Perrysburg Twp. zoning inspector, of the Louisiana Avenue home he shares with wife Susan. "Our house has been under construction for 35 years now." Garn is retiring after 13 years on the job.
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After 13 years of overseeing permits for what Perrysburg Township residents were doing to their properties, Grant Garn will be spending his retirement working on his home in Perrysburg.

"I have a number of projects to finish up here at home," he said of the Louisiana Avenue home he shares with wife Susan. "Our house has been under construction for 35 years now."

Home projects long have been part of the career of Mr. Garn, 69, who is retiring Monday as Perrysburg Township's zoning inspector.

He and a partner operated a commercial building businesses, and Mr. Garn also had a renovation businesses through which he fixed up old homes like the ones on Front Street in Perrysburg. He had been a kitchen designer for The Andersons, worked in the local real estate and insurance fields, and even had done some surveying as a high school student.

Mr. Garn may not have known it, but he was attaining many of the skills he would need as zoning inspector for the large township.

"I knew a lot about how to handle all of that stuff from my occupations before," the Perrysburg native said.

Mr. Garn handled all matters related to planning and zoning, including permits, code inspections, resolution enforcement, and relating to the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Zoning Commission.

A graduate of Perrysburg High School, Mr. Garn holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University where he studied engineering for a few years and then majored in insurance and land economics.

Hired by Perrysburg Township in 1999, Mr. Garn said he was pretty much on his own in figuring out the job.

"I only had half an hour of instruction when I started," he said.

Procedures are different from county to county, and there isn't a good method of training or much guidance other than what is stated in the Ohio Revised Code and local zoning regulations, he said.

Trustee Craig LaHote said the township was fortunate to have a zoning inspector with as diverse a background as Mr. Garn had.

"He did kind of figure things out as he went along," he said.

Mr. Garn said the zoning position previously had been a part-time position, and it showed when it came to records management.

"There was a room full of cardboard boxes that had never been sorted out," he said.

Mr. LaHote said many of the documents pertaining to property were referenced by name or general direction, like "the house down from so-and-so's farm."

Mr. Garn said those records reflect the community of that time, when homesteads remained in one family over time and when postal workers knew where people lived by just their rural route delivery number. There were no house addresses then, he said.

With the help of interns -- including Rosanna Violi, who currently serves as assistant to the township administrator -- Mr. Garn set to work organizing the property documents. They used old phone directories from the 1950s to cross-reference locations that now have parcel numbers and addresses.

And then there was all of the residential and commercial growth the township had seen, which made the old way of keeping records even more inadequate, Mr. Garn said.

"Nobody imagined that the township was going to build [along] Route 20," he said.

Permits are filed by date and permit number, which means more work is still to be done, Mr. Garn said.

"Now they have the task ... of scanning everything," he said, which will create electronic files that can be searched by name or address.

Mr. Garn said he thought he would have a few more months in the office before fully handing over the reins to Kelly Hemminger, who was hired as zoning administrator in November.

Mr. Garn was just beginning his medical leave for surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff when he discussed the impending changes to Ohio's pension law with township administrator John Hrosko, who along with police chief Mark Hetrick also decided to retire now so as to not lose out on their Public Employee Retirement System benefits.

"I was not planning on retiring until next year at some time," Mr. Garn said.

He said Ms. Hemminger was finishing his most recent project of tidying up the Zoning Resolution, the book of regulations that outlines what township residents may do with their properties.

Besides completing some of his personal home projects, Mr. Garn said he will continue to help his wife with her environmental contribution of raising monarch butterflies. Each migration season in late summer or early fall, the couple collect butterfly eggs from on plants they grow on their property to attract the insects. They keep them indoors until each forms a chrysalis, then Mr. Garn hangs them outdoors so that 100-200 adults can emerge and fly away.

Mr. Garn also said he intends to stay involved in TMACOG, the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, and that he might get back into politics. He had served 12 years on the Perrysburg Exempted Village School District Board of Education.

"I believe in doing that as part of giving back to the community," he said.

Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at 419-356-8786, rconklin@theblade.com, or on Twitter @RebeccaConklinK.



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