The Ohio Supreme Court will have the final say on whether Jefferson Township voters get to decide if they want to keep the township’s recently approved wind turbine amendment to the zoning ordinance.
The amendment has survived a gauntlet of legal challenges since it was first approved by the township’s zoning board in September. A decision in favor of the prowind property owners who filed the Supreme Court challenge on Wednesday would be the final stroke in making the zoning amendment official.
The opposite ruling by the state’s high court would leave the decision up to township voters who go to the polls for the March 4 primary election.
The challenge was filed with the Supreme Court, which is customary to expedite election law issues, Logan County Prosecutor Gerald Heaton said.
Attorney Joseph Miller, who filed the challenge, made many of the same points he argued during the Jan. 4 hearing in which the Logan County Election Board ruled that the issue would remain on the ballot. But in this challenge, he also argues that the election board’s decision was not a majority vote of the four-person board.
Members Bill Montgomery and Nancy Knight did not take part in the hearing or vote because of potential conflicts of interest.
Mr. Heaton, who represents the election board and the township, said Thursday he had just received the motion and had not had time to review it or determine how he would respond to the 27-point challenge. He has five days, including the weekend, to submit his first brief.
That is followed by six days during which each party files arguments in support of their case. The court must then decide if it will request oral arguments or if it will rule on the documents submitted, Mr. Heaton said.
“There are many cases out there and they go both ways,” he said. “I will research both lines of decisions to develop the argument.”
But the election board, which already has begun programming voting machines for the primary election, is facing a tight timeline for getting ready for the election, said Lucinda Holycross, co-director.
“With the short election cycle, we are trying to get everything done as quickly as possible,” she said. “If at all possible, we would like to know what is going on with the ballot by the end of next week.”
If the court rules the issue should not be placed on the ballot after the ballots are printed, the election board can post a notice at appropriate polling places to let voters know that the votes will not be counted, Mr. Heaton said.
Although the residents who circulated the petition and defended it during last week’s hearing are not party to this case, Susan Reames of the Wind Truth Alliance Board, said they are considering ways to make their voice heard.
“We’ll have to look into all our options,” she said. “We went into the last situation hoping the board of elections would be able to make an appropriate decision. We are pleased with the decisions they made, but we are not surprised by this appeal. If this is a good thing for the community why shouldn’t the community’s voice be heard?”
By Reuben Mees
Bellefontaine Examiner Staff Writer
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