Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 25, 2019

OH Supreme Court Holds that While Ordinance Required Strict Compliance as to the Contents of a Zoning Petition, It Allowed for Substantial Compliance as to Its Form

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

In 2019, Paragon Building Group, Ltd., filed an application to rezone approximately 210.62 acres of land in Jerome Township, Union County, which was then zoned RU-Rural Residential District and SRE-Special Recreation District. The application sought to change the zoning classification to PD-Planned Development District. After filing, the zoning application was designated “PD 19-130”, which the Jerome Township Zoning Commission recommend approval of to the Jerome Township Board of Trustees. The board of trustees held four public hearings on it, and adopted Resolution No. 19-066, which approved application PD 19-130, subject to five conditions. The board of elections determined that the petition contained a sufficient number of valid signatures and certified the issue to the ballot. In this case, relators, Bryan R. Barney and Walbonns, L.L.C., sought a writ of prohibition to prevent respondent, the Union County Board of Elections, from placing the township zoning referendum on the general-election ballot.

As an initial matter, the protesters described the application was a “made up” title and faulted the petition for failing to use the full and correct title. The protesters further argued that the application was well known as “Rolling Meadows” and that the part-petitions were defective because they did not identify the proposal by that name or by “PD 19-130.” Despite this contention, the protesters never identified what the correct title was.  Moreover, both of the requested designations appeared on the face of the part-petitions, in the summary section. While R.C. 519.12(H) mandated the information to appear on the part-petition, it did not specify where it was required to appear. Accordingly, the court held that the board of elections correctly rejected the protesters’ argument for invalidating the part-petitions.

The court next noted that the petition at issue contained the entire zoning amendment, including the full text of the modifications. Nevertheless, the zoning-referendum petition was brief, as the complete zoning amendment including the full list of amendments was only two pages long. Thus, the court found the brief summary requirement was satisfied. As above, the protesters’ objection was not that the petition lacked essential information, but that the information was not placed in a particular location on the form. The court again determined that while R.C. 519.12(H) required strict compliance as to the contents of a zoning petition, it allowed for substantial compliance as to its form. Since the court held the petition substantially complied with the requirements of the law, it denied the writ of prohibition.

State ex rel. Barney v. Union County Board of Elections, 2019 WL 5258021 (OH 10/17/2019)

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