Protests could keep zoning issues off November ballot
LANCASTER - Two Walnut Township zoning referendum petitions have met the signature requirement according to the Fairfield County Board of Elections. Each petition had the required 158 valid signatures. But both must pass another hurdle before they make it on the November ballot.
Walnut Township Trustees unanimously approved the township's first I-2 district on May 6 for an approximately 66 acre tract owned by Jerry and Barbara Mock on the west side of Ohio 37. The site is currently an I-1 district. The Mocks' son operates three businesses on the site.
Trustees termed their approval of the zoning change as correcting a mistake made by township officials who had told the Mocks that I-1 zoning would be sufficient for the planned business activities. Township officials later determined that I-2 zoning is required since the businesses are not conducted inside buildings as I-1 requires.
Neighbors opposed the change, claiming the Mocks have expanded their operations far beyond their original plans by adding concrete grinding, accepting construction and demolition debris (C&DD) waste and unloading/processing of C&DD waste. They are also concerned about a possible C&DD landfill on the site.
The Mocks filed a protest against the referendum petition on June 25. The following grounds for the protest are listed.
•The Petition summary is inaccurate, false and misleading;
• The Petition summary falsely states that a map of the proposed properties is attached to each part-petition;
• The Petition summary falsely state that the minutes of the May 6, 2009, meeting is attached to each part-petition;
• The voter registrations that were filed with the Petition were untimely in order to treat the signers of the registrations as qualified electors for purposes of signing the Petition;
• Signers of the Petition were misinformed and/or mislead as to the proposed use of the subject property;
• The circulators did not witness each person signing the petition;
• The map that accompanied the filing of the petition was not an appropriate map of the area affected by the rezoning;
• The petition does not contain sufficient valid signatures of qualified electors of the township.
Trustees approved the township's second I-2 tract by a 2-1 vote on May 12 with Trustee Wally Gabriel voting "no." This 289 acre tract is owned by Licking Fairfield Corporation and was rezoned from Rural Residential to I-2. Licking-Fairfield owner Ed Parrish said he was solicited by Walnut Township Trustees for industrial zoning on this tract several years ago and again early this year. Parrish lives on the site which stretches east from Ohio 37 and across Millersport Road. He has no specific development plans and has emphasized that he is a farmer, not a developer.
Licking-Fairfield filed a protest June 16 with the Fairfield County Board of Elections. The protest contends that the referendum petition fails to comply with Ohio Revised Code 519.12 in several respects. It specifically lists:
• Contains an inaccurate 'brief summary;'
• Fails to contain an 'appropriate map.'
Licking-Fairfield's attorney specifically requests an evidentiary hearing.
The protest was supplemented June 24, by adding elector James Edward Parrish to it. The supplement also adds a bit more detail stating, "The brief summary is inaccurate, in that it does not properly state the prior zoning of all rezoned property and includes property in the re-zoning that was not in fact rezoned. The map is not appropriate in that it includes property that was not in fact re-zoned and thus would 'mislead the average person about the area affected by the zoning resolution.'"
The four member Fairfield County Board of Elections will determine whether either of the issues will appear on the November ballot. The board doesn't have a scheduled meeting until August. The board is waiting to hear from its legal counsel, assistant county prosecutor Ray E. Hart. He is on vacation.