Posted by: Patricia Salkin | December 29, 2014

OH Appeals Court Finds Code Enforcement Complaint Inadequate to Inform Defendant of Conduct Viewed as Unlawful

Workman owns property on which he maintains his home as well as storage of vehicles and equipment used in his plumbing, HVAC and gas line repair business. Mercer County initiated a code enforcement case against Workman for conducting a “commercial use” in a “Prime Agricultural District.” Specifically, the complaint stated that Workman “did conduct commercial use in an area… not zoned for that use.”

After a bench trial, the trial court determined Workman violated the county land use code and imposed a fine. Workman appealed. The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and set aside the conviction. The appellate court decided that the code enforcement complaint was inadequate to inform the defendant of the conduct the county viewed as unlawful. The court explained “nothing in the wording of [the ordinance] serve[d] to apprise an individual that simply conducting ‘commercial
use’ in a Prime Agricultural District constituted a violation of the zoning code.” The court stated: “it is not clear that the mere storage of one’s personal property to be used in the course of a business is an inherently ‘commercial’ activity so as to adequately put an individual on notice that he may be conducting a ‘commercial use’ in violation of the zoning code.”

State v. Workman, 2014 WL 296000 (Ohio App. 2014)

The opinion can be accessed at:

Editor’s Note: This abstract appears in Wendie Kellington, Esq.’s materials from the December 2014 ALI Land Use Institute.

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