Berlin Twp. referendum hearing set for Thursday

Attorneys representing Savko Brothers Properties X LLC will present evidence to the Delaware County Board of Elections Thursday in a public protest hearing that could prevent a referendum from reaching the May 2018 ballot.

If the referendum is allowed on the ballot, voters will have a chance overturn Berlin Township’s decision to rezone 24 acres of land along U.S. 36/State Route 37 owned by Savko Brothers.

Joe Miller and Chris Ingram of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP filed a protest with the BOE regarding the decision to certify the signatures of a petition on Nov. 28, 2017 from Berlin Township residents asking for the referendum.

After the board certified the petition, Ingram said he thought the BOE will learn that the Berlin Township trustees “did not actually review and certify the validity of the face of the petition.” He told the board that what they will hear at the hearing is largely the petition fails to comply with the Ohio Revised Code.

Miller said that the “petition is misleading and does not satisfy the requirements of Ohio Law” and that he and Ingram were “confident that the board will agree that this measure should not go to the ballot.”

On Oct. 9, 2017, Berlin Township trustees, after the approval of the township’s Zoning Commission, approved the rezoning measure of the 24 acres of land from Farm Residential to Planned Industrial.

The request was made by Savko Brothers Properties, which proposes developing Savko Commerce Park, an industrial park that includes the construction of a concrete batching facility.

By the end of the meeting, Berlin Township residents decided the only action left for them was to start the petition process to get a referendum on the May ballot.

Graeme Quinn, one of the township residents who initiated the petition, submitted it to Berlin Township’s fiscal officer on Nov. 6.

Berlin Township trustees then approved a resolution certifying the petition and sent it to the board of elections Nov. 13.

The board of elections certified the referendum for the May 2018 ballot on Nov. 28.

The Gazette contacted Quinn for comment on the upcoming hearing on Thursday, he said he had “nothing new to add.”

The day the BOE certified the signatures on the petition Quinn said, “I am surprised at the basis of the opposition saying that the township didn’t actually review it and that the board of elections can’t trust that review. The board of elections is saying the trustees did review it. They went through and were given advice from their attorney, the prosecutor’s office. Based on the combination of the advice they got from their attorney and reviewing the timeliness of the submission, the number of signatures and part-petitions, they did review it and they passed it.”

In the matter, the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office represents both the township and the BOE. Prosecutor Carol O’Brien, recognizing the need for outside counsel, stated in an affidavit, “The board of elections will require legal representation at the hearing and, if the board of elections’ decision is challenged, the board of elections and its decision will need to be defended in the courts.”

Delaware County Commissioners approved an application presented by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Betts on Dec. 28 to request that outside counsel is appointed to represent the board of elections in the matter of the referendum.

Laura MacGregor Comek is the BOE’s attorney in the matter.

By D. Anthony Botkin

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Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.