Berlin Township trustees have approved sending a petition containing 343 signatures to the Delaware County Board of Elections requesting a referendum to be placed on the May 2018 ballot.
However, having the petition approved turned out to be more than a “formality” and “turned into a very long night,” reported Graeme Quinn in an email to The Gazette Thursday. Quinn is one of the residents who initiated the referendum.
The referendum gives voters a chance to overturn the trustees’ Oct. 9 approval of rezoning 24 acres of property from Farm Residential to Planned Industrial Development.
The request for rezoning came from the owner of the property, Savko Brothers Properties X LLC, which plans to develop the land located along U.S. 36 and State Route 37. The company’s proposal for Savko Commerce Park includes plans to build a concrete batching facility.
Quinn said attendees included Trustees Ron Bullard and Adam Fleischer, Fiscal Officer Claudia Smith, and Attorney Mark Fowler from the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office Civil Division, which is representing the township.
In attendance for Savko Brothers Properties X LLC were “Marty Savko, his son, (the company’s attorney) Mike Shade, and two new attorneys representing Savko,” Quinn said.
Quinn said when one of Savko’s attorneys tried to give a presentation, Bullard directed him and Fowler to a room to continue the discussion in private. He said it lasted a couple of hours and once returning to the public meeting, attorneys for Savko were given an opportunity for comment.
“Ultimately, the trustees concluded that the petition appeared to be complete, valid, have sufficient signatures, and was received within the 30-day deadline,” Quinn said. “They passed a resolution to certify the referendum petition and send it to the Board of Elections.”
“There’s a process set up,” said Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien. “Zoning approved it and the trustees approved it as authorized by statute.”
Quinn said consensus appeared to be that the Board of Elections is the “appropriate venue to challenge the sufficiency of the petition.”
“I’m not surprised they don’t want to let this get to the voters, but choosing the trustee meeting to attack the petition based on the legal (details) definitely raised a few eyebrows,” he said.
Quinn hand-delivered the petition to Fiscal Officer Claudia Smith Nov. 6.
Karla Herron, Delaware County Board of Elections director, confirmed that the petition was filed with the board Nov. 14.