Zoning referendum: Court rules in favor of elections board

Larry Limpf

News Editor
A referendum on a zoning issue in Lake Township will be on the March 19 primary ballot following a decision last week by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Theodore Thomas, Fostoria Road, had asked the court to block a decision by the Wood County Board of Elections to certify a referendum petition for placement on the March primary ballot. If passed by voters, the referendum will undo a decision by the township trustees who approved a request by Thomas to rezone property he owns along Bailey Road from R-2 residential to B-2 commercial.
Residents along Bailey Road opposed the change in zoning for commercial use, saying it wouldn’t fit in with the surrounding residential area.
The Supreme Court ruled that Thomas and his company, T Thomas Properties, LLC., “failed to demonstrate that the board of elections abused its discretion or disregarded applicable law in certifying the referendum for placement on the ballot.”
Thomas has plans to install self-storage units on the property. He also owns an adjacent parcel at 5826 Woodville Rd., where a car wash is located.
Residents on Bailey and adjacent areas of the township petitioned for the referendum with the elections board and the board on Dec. 21, 2023 certified the petitions.
A week later, the trustees and Thomas filed resolutions protesting the board’s action and a second board hearing was scheduled for Jan. 9. Despite the challenge from Thomas and the trustees the elections board certified the petitions, setting the issue for the March ballot.
In his request to the court, Thomas contended the elections board “wrongfully approved the referendum petition knowing it did not contain signatures of 15 percent of relevant registered electors.”
Also, the board didn’t meet criteria in state law covering notices of public meetings, his court filing alleges.
Joe Zemenski, a resident of Bailey Road, said the effort to put the referendum on the ballot also has the support of neighboring subdivisions; not just residents on his street.
“Needless to say we are very happy with the Ohio Supreme Court ruling not only for our neighboring homes surrounding the empty lot, but for the hundreds of homeowners in the six surrounding subdivisions who supported our efforts to protect our residential investments,” he said.” This issue is just one of five other Lake Township residential lot issues. Although the zoning laws are already in the books, neighbors literally donated thousands of hours of work and resources to try to get these enforced and even try to get a zoning map made. Those young, middle and elderly friends who supported us, in word and deed, may now feel a little more secure knowing there really are options to pursue, when the next business or industry again gets permission to build next door to them, and destroy the peace and character of their home.”
Julie Baumgardner, deputy director of the Wood County Board of Elections, said residents in the unincorporated area of the township will be eligible to vote on the referendum.


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