Clark County elections board denies protest to Mad River Twp. zoning referendum

A public hearing was held at the Clark County Board of Elections about a Mad River Twp. referendum challenging the Hillside Farms housing development Thursday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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A public hearing was held at the Clark County Board of Elections about a Mad River Twp. referendum challenging the Hillside Farms housing development Thursday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Referendum is slated to appear on Nov. 2 ballot.

The Clark County Board of Elections unanimously moved to deny a protest against a Mad River Twp. zoning referendum slated to appear on the Nov. 2 ballot after hearing hours of discussion during a public hearing Thursday.

The public hearing for the protest seeking to keep the referendum off the ballot was held Thursday at the elections board office, 3130 E. Main St. (formerly E. National Rd.) in Springfield, with legal representation for referendum petitioners and its protesters presenting arguments.

Township resident and registered voter Gerald Shaw and Hillside Creek Farms LLC filed the protest against the referendum through the elections board on Aug. 9.

Corey Columbo, a Columbus-based attorney, represented Shaw and Hillside Creek Farms LLC. He presented 45 pages of evidence to the Board during the hearing, arguing that the referendum petition failed to include the proper name “by which it is known,” title and summary details, all required by state law for a referendum to appear on an Ohio ballot.

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“This sets the floor, this sets the bare minimum for what’s needed in a petition,” he told the Board.

The petition submitted for the referendum is titled “Referendum on Resolution No. 2021-0433,” which references the June rezoning resolution.

Ballot language for the referendum was approved by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office in August. The referendum is for the “proposed rezoning case Z-2021-05 being approximately 42.05 acres located at 6766 Stine Road, to rezone from A-1 (agricultural district) and R-1 (rural residence district) to PD-R (planned district residential) for a 162 lot single family subdivision.”

Springfield attorney Randall Comer, who represented the petitioners behind the referendum, argued that the petition references the rezoning resolution passed by commissioners and does not need to reference the business behind the proposed development in order to meet requirements established in the Ohio Revised Code for the referendum’s name and title.

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Comer also argued that the the referendum includes details about the location of the proposed rezoning, the acreage associated with the rezoning, and the rezoning’s purpose, all details voters would need to make a decision when casting their ballots.

“This is a controversial issue that should be left to the electorate,” Comer said.

The Clark County Board of Commissioners voted in June to approve the rezoning of 42 acres in Mad River Twp. from an agricultural district and rural residence district to a planned district residential to be used for a housing development proposed by Hillside Creek Farms on the corner of Stine and Enon-Xenia roads for more than 160 new homes.

This rezoning resolution was met with concern from a group of Mad River Twp. residents, who gathered in early July to discuss the development project, with more than 60 people attending the meeting.

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The group canvassed the community and filed nearly 600 signatures for a referendum to challenge the rezoning resolution to the elections board. A total of 308 valid signatures were needed for the referendum to be eligible for the ballot.

The commissioners acknowledged and certified the referendum in August.

The elections board aired the public hearing in three parts on its Facebook page, announcing its decision on the protest following the hearing. The referendum will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.

In Ohio, ballots must be ready for send-off by Sept. 17 for absentee voters.

By the numbers

42: Number of acres rezoned in Mad River Twp. for proposed subdivision

600: Number of signatures residents filed for referendum to challenge rezoning

308: Number of signatures needed to get referendum on ballot

160: Number of homes in proposed subdivision

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