Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 3, 2015

OH Supreme Court Holds Township’s Comprehensive Plan May be Included Within Its Zoning Resolution and Need Not be a Separate and Distinct Document

Appellant, Apple Group, Ltd., purchased 88 acres of undeveloped land in Granger Township, zoned R–1 residential, which permits the construction of single-family and two-family homes on a minimum lot size of two acres. Apple sought to develop a subdivision consisting of 44 single-family homes situated on approximately one-acre lots on its property, so it applied to appellee Granger Township Board of Zoning Appeals for 176 variances, four variances for each of the 44 proposed lots. The BZA denied the variance application, and Apple filed an administrative appeal. The BZA’s decision was affirmed by the Medina County Court of Common Pleas, finding the BZA’s decision was supported by a preponderance of the evidence and that the request for variances was in reality an attempt to rezone the land to a new district. Apple also filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, seeking a declaration that Granger’s zoning resolution establishing the R–1 zoning classification is unconstitutional and beyond the authority delegated to Granger in R.C. Chapter 519. A magistrate issued a decision denying Apple’s claims, concluding “the zoning resolution itself meets the statutory requirement of a comprehensive plan, because it has the essential characteristics of a comprehensive plan; it encompasses all geographic parts of the community and integrates all functional elements.” The common pleas court adopted the magistrate’s findings, and Apple appealed to the Ninth District Court of Appeals, which affirmed.

On appeal, Apple argued that a comprehensive plan must be created first to assure the public that the township’s zoning has been properly considered, and that a zoning resolution must implement the comprehensive plan. Granger argued that its Revised Zoning Resolution was the comprehensive plan identified in R.C. 519.02. The court noted that the comprehensive plan consists of something more than zoning a section of a township to allow farming, residential, commercial, and recreational uses without specifying which portions of the section can be used for any of those purposes. It then adopted the factors that the White Oak court considered to be indicative of a comprehensive plan, i.e., that it “(1) reflect current land uses; (2) allow for change; (3) promote public health and safety; (4) uniformly classify similar areas; (5) clearly define district locations and boundaries; and (6) identify the use(s) to which each property may be put.” White Oak Property Dev., L.L.C. v. Washington Twp., 12th Dist. Brown No. CA2011–05–011, 2012-Ohio-425, 2012 WL 368254.

Because the court found all six factors were met, and a comprehensive plan need not be set forth in a separate document and may be included in the township’s zoning plan, the court held Granger’s zoning resolution was enacted in accordance with a comprehensive plan pursuant to R.C. 519.02. The judgment of the Court of Appeals was therefore affirmed.

Apple Group, LTD v Granger Township Board of Zoning Appeals, 2015 WL 3774084 (OH 6/17/2015)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/9/2013/2013-ohio-4259.pdf


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