Clark-Shawnee files second lawsuit against planning commission

Superintendent Brian Kuhn calls into question one member’s appointment, says prior vote is null.

Clark-Shawnee Local Schools has filed a second lawsuit against a combined township, city, county planning board, saying one of its members did not live in the area that she represented during an October meeting to vote on land for a controversial residential and retail development.

Superintendent Brian Kuhn said the Clark County representatives for the CEDA Regional Planning Commission are required to either live in Springfield or Springfield Twp., but member Theresa Hartley lives in Moorefield Twp. He said with the “retroactive removal” of three board members who violated attendance policy and the subsequent nullification of their previous votes, he believes Hartley’s vote should be negated as well.

Hartley’s address is in Moorefield Twp., according to public records.

Kuhn said the district is seeking an injunction on the Oct. 5 vote, for the court to direct the CEDA board to comply with open meetings laws, to nullify all actions at the October and November meetings and for a $500 civil forfeiture as well as payment of of court costs and attorney fees.

Earlier this month, Clark County Deputy Director of Development J. Alex Dietz shared at an emergency meeting that three board members vacated their seats due to attendance policy violations, and the chair resigned his position. Dietz said during the meeting that land allocated for a residential and retail development was automatically approved because the resignations brought the previous majority vote to deny the land to 2-2, and with no action within 30 days, policy requires automatic approval.

Clark-Shawnee Local Schools filed suit against the CEDA board and its previous members following that meeting, citing a breach of the Ohio Open Meetings Act. Kuhn said previously the public announcement of the approval was not allowed, according to the Ohio Revised Code, because only two board members were present and four are required to make a quorum.

According to the Ohio Revised Code, a meeting is a “prearranged gathering of the members of a public body for the purpose of discussing public business.”

The CEDA board is made up of seven members with two being appointed by Springfield Twp., two appointed by the city of Springfield, one person required to be a Springfield resident and appointed by Clark County, one a resident of Springfield Twp. and appointed by Clark County, and the chairperson being approved by the other members.

“If discussions at the defendant CEDA Regional Planning Commission emergency public meeting held November 8, 2023, are to be believed regarding the retroactive removal of three (3) of the Defendant CEDA Regional Planning Commission members to the September 7, 2023, regular meeting, and if Defendant Hartley was not properly appointed ... then no quorum existed for the .. regular public meeting held on October 5, 2023, or the emergency public meeting held on November 8, 2023,” the most recent lawsuit states.

Kuhn said because Hartley, who is no longer on the board, was improperly appointed to the board and three board members vacated their seats, that would bring the vote on the Melody Parks development to 2-1, which does not meet the quorum requirement.

“Three legitimate voting members does not a legal meeting make,” Kuhn said.

A Clark County representative declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Melody Parks, which would take up 400 acres along East National Road near Bird Road, is planned to include retail, restaurants, multi-family apartments, plus patio and single-family residential components.

Clark County Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt said the plot of land is certified for Borror’s Melody Parks development. She said the county acts as the administrator of the CEDA board but is not directly involved.

Columbus-based developer Borror is leading the $400 million Melody Parks project, a name that is a nod to the former drive-in at the site. Officials said it is the largest project of its kind in the area in decades.

Flax Wilt said previously the county was made aware of the attendance policy violations after the October meeting.

Springfield Mayor Rob Rue said previously that with the Melody Parks project, the city has been transparent. He said Springfield looked into its CEDA board appointees and found Kathryn Lewis-Campbell had missed too many meetings, and she and others who also missed meetings were notified they had vacated their seats.

Springfield Twp. and Clark-Shawnee officials have said Melody Parks will strain resources and add hundreds of new students to the schools when completed.

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