Delaware County Commissioners approved a joint application authorizing the use of outside counsel for the board of elections in the matter of the Berlin Township referendum.
The board of elections has scheduled a protest hearing concerning the referendum for Tuesday, Jan. 9 at 9 a.m.
The referendum gives voters a chance to overturn the trustees’ Oct. 9 approval of rezoning 24 acres of property along U.S. 36/State Route 37 from Farm Residential to Planned Industrial Development. The referendum was certified to appear on the May 2018 ballot by the board of elections Nov. 28.
The property in question is owned by Savko Brothers Properties X LLC who requested the township rezone the land for the proposed Savko Commerce Park that includes plans for the construction of a concrete batching facility.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Betts presented an application to commissioners Thursday to appoint outside counsel for the board of elections.
“Our office is both counsel to the township and to the board of elections,” Betts said. “We’ve counseled the township in this particular matter and there’s an actual perceived conflict of interest.
Betts said under the Ohio Revised Code, a joint application is required between the prosecutor’s office, the board of commissioners, and the common pleas court. He said the board of elections will be responsible to determine and pay all fees associated with that counsel.
“If approved, the board could actually go ahead and hire outside counsel,” he said.
“It will be interesting to see how this turns out,” said Commissioner Jeff Benton. “It’s kind of a blighted property, to be perfectly honest, and it’s being redeveloped.”
In an affidavit by Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien, she states, “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.”
The board of elections is requesting Laura MacGregor Comek Esq. to be appointed as its legal counsel in the matter of the referendum.
Graeme Quinn, one of the township residents who initiated the petition for the referendum, hand-delivered the petition to Berlin Township’s Fiscal Officer Claudia Smith on Nov. 6. Berlin Township Trustees approved a resolution certifying the petition and sending it to the board of elections Nov. 13.
Attorneys Joe Miller and Chris Ingram of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, filed a protest of the board of elections decision on behalf of Savko Brothers Properties X LLC, owners of the property.
Posted on the Delaware County Board of Elections website is a meeting scheduled for Jan. 2, at 9 a.m. for an update on Berlin Township Zoning Referendum Hearing.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.