The Delaware County Board of Elections has certified a referendum scheduled to appear on the May 2018 ballot in Berlin Township. If passed by voters, the measure could overturn Berlin Township trustees’ decision to rezone 24 acres of land along U.S. 36/State Route 37.
Graeme Quinn is one of the township residents who initiated the petition for the referendum. He delivered it to Berlin Township Fiscal Officer Claudia Smith on Nov. 8. Trustees approved a resolution certifying the petition Nov. 13 and sent it to the board of elections.
“It doesn’t surprise me that it was passed,” Quinn said. “All of the circulators were very well trained, they acted in good faith. I know, personally, every single one of the collectors and we’re all just trying to do the right thing.”
However, attorneys Joe Miller and Chris Ingram of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP said their firm will file a protest of the BOE’s decision on behalf of Savko Brothers Properties X LLC, owners of the property.
The board of elections has scheduled a protest hearing for Jan. 9 at 9 a.m.
“We’re going to have a protest hearing in January where the evidence is going to demonstrate that this petition is misleading and does not satisfy the requirements of Ohio Law,” Miller said. “We feel confident that the board will agree that this measure should not go to the ballot.”
Ingram said he thinks the board 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.
“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,” Quinn said. “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,” Quinn said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Berlin Township trustees approved the rezoning measure Oct. 9 to the disappointment of several residents who were opposed to the rezoning. Savko Brothers Properties requested that the township rezone the land located along U.S. 36/State Route 37 to Planned Industrial Development for the proposed Savko Commerce Park. Included in the plans is the construction of a concrete batching facility.
Mark Fowler from Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office attended the Oct. 9 meeting as the township’s attorney. He was asked if the threat of litigation existed with a referendum by the residents.
“I’ve never seen a successful lawsuit after a referendum,” Fowler said.
“Who would they even sue?” Quinn said at that time. “The residents?”
Quinn has stated that his property borders the property of the proposed industrial park. He explained his problem isn’t living next to a cement plant, but the traffic it creates at the intersection of Lackey Old State Road and U.S. 36/SR37.
“Someone is going to get into an accident with an 80,000-pound truck,” he said. “Someone is going to get killed.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.