In a sudden turn of events, the Berlin Township referendum was unanimously certified to the May 8 election ballot Friday (March 30) by the Delaware County Board of Elections.
The referendum seeks to overturn Berlin Township trustees’ decision to allow 24 acres of land along U.S. Route 36/state Route 37 to be rezoned from Farm Residential to Planned Industrial.
On Thursday (March 29), Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted broke the board’s tie vote that would have kept the referendum from appearing on the ballot.
The Secretary’s opinion states, “… the petition summary and the resolution contain nearly identical wording. Supreme Court precedent establishes that this is sufficient to find the summary valid. Accordingly, I find that the summary satisfies the requirements of Ohio law and break the tie vote against the motion.”
Members of the board of elections voted on two separate motions in a protest hearing Jan. 18 that kept the referendum from going to the ballot. The board came to a tied vote of 2-2 on the second motion dealing with the sufficiency of the summary on the petition.
The Ohio Supreme Court overruled the board’s first motion on March 15 where members voted 3-1 against placing it on the ballot based on the petition being titled incorrectly.
As stated in the court’s decision, “In this expedited election case, realtor, Graeme J. Quinn, seeks a writ of mandamus to compel respondent, Delaware County Board of Elections, to place a referendum on the May 8, 2018, ballot. … we grant the writ.”
Quinn has been a key component in getting the referendum on the May ballot by putting his heart and soul into the effort, “and more time than I ever thought possible,” he said.
“There have been many hours of missed sleep, and it’s been quite a roller coaster,” he said. “There is nothing as intimidating as reading an opposing counsel’s brief on whether or not you’re right.”
“In this entire case when it comes to opposing counsel and the board of elections in whether or not they did the right thing or wrong thing, I’ve always taken the attitude, which is halfway between least said — soonest mended, and if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” he said. “I have nothing negative to say about this process.”
Quinn added he understood that everybody has individual rights, and every counselor is trying to “zealously” present their own client’s interest. Quinn said it has been a very intense process, but he was glad the referendum was going to the ballot.
Delaware County Board of Elections Chairman Ed Helvey said the process worked itself out, and the referendum will be on the ballot for voters to decide on the rezoning measure.
“The parts I looked at is whether all the parties had a fair shot at their due process rights being respected,” he said. “I was glad that was recognized by the court.”
The rezoning measure behind the referendum was requested by Savko Brothers Properties, which proposes developing Savko Commerce Park, an industrial park that includes the construction of a concrete batching facility.
The history of the referendum making its way to the May ballot started on Oct. 9, 2017, when the Berlin Township Board of Trustees, after the approval from the township’s zoning commission, approved a measure rezoning 24 acres of land from Farm Residential to Planned Industrial.
By the end of the Oct. 9 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.
Quinn submitted the petition 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 on Nov. 13.
The board of elections certified the referendum for the May 2018 ballot on Nov. 28.
In the Jan. 18 protest hearing in front of the board, Joe Miller of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, attorney for Savko Brothers Properties X LLC, challenged the board of elections to review, examine, and certify the validity of the petition as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.