Jefferson Township voters may not get to decide whether they like the new wind turbine zoning ordinance after a group of pro-wind landowners challenged a petition to place the issue on the March ballot.
Lawyers on Wednesday filed a nine page motion asking the Logan County Board of Elections to nullify a petition containing the names of hundreds of voters because of errors in how it was submitted.
Residents circulated the petition following the township trustees’ failure on Sept. 19 to override a zoning resolution proposed by the wind proponents.
Susan Reames, who lives on County Road 5 and helped circulate the petitions, said she believes there needs to be more community input into the final ordinance.
“The reason we chose to take the zoning that was passed to a referendum is that the first responsibility of the Ohio code is to protect health, safety and welfare,” she said. “This is an industrial development. It will have pros and cons. But we have to make sure we protect everyone – even the people who don’t want protected.”
The group submitted the petition to Trustee Tim Tillman in mid-October and Mr. Tillman delivered it to the election board on Oct. 26.
The legal challenge claims that Mr. Tillman should have presented the petition to the full board of trustees for an official vote before it was delivered to the election board.
Mr. Tillman said he was acting on the advice of Logan County Prosecutor Gerald Heaton who represents the township.
Mr. Heaton said although he has not had time to research the legal claims that “he does not concede” which it is necessary to go to a full vote of the board of trustees.
The lawsuit also claims that Mr. Tillman received the petition on Oct. 11 but did not submit it until one day after the two weeks allowed by law had expired. Mr. Tillman, however, said although he learned of a petition prepared on Oct. 11 he did not receive the actual document until three days later.
John Horton, one of 19 property owners listed in the challenge, said while he is not well-versed in the legal maneuvering, he believes the ordinance passed in September adequately protects the public and spurs economic development.
“The zoning we have is good. They have the restrictions we need and setbacks from property lines, but we do not need to have zoning that is so restrictive (wind turbines) cannot be built anywhere,” he said.
“The real benefits I see are economic to the township, the county and the schools. Everybody is going to benefit from the revenue because every dollar spent in an area changes hands seven to eight times a year.”
It is now up to the election board to decide how they will handle the legal challenge.
The lawyers who filed the document suggest it needs to be heard before the Jan. 4 deadline for submitting issues for the ballot. Election Board Co-Director Lucinda Holycross said the board is still determining if it will be necessary to call a special meeting or if the issue can be heard at the Jan. 7 regular meeting when the board will certify the final list of ballot issues and candidates.
“The board is talking and we don’t know how we’ll handle it yet,” the election official said, noting that the immediacy of the issue and the holidays have made it difficult to get necessary information from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office.
Mr. Heaton, who represents both Jefferson Township and the election board said he will likely have to sit this one out to avoid any conflict of interest.
“I won’t argue before the election board because I represent them and they are sitting in a quasi-judicial capacity in this matter,” he said.
By Reuben Mees
Bellefontaine Examiner Staff Writer
28 December 2007
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