Chester Township zoning referendum denied by board of elections

By Anthony Conchel - The Sentinel

MOUNT GILEAD — A group seeking to block a rezoning in Chester Township lost that opportunity when the Morrow County Board of Elections met March 14, voting unanimously to not allow the referendum.

The referendum centered on blocking a development proposal near Chesterville.

Chester Township Trustees voted unanimously on Feb. 12 to amend the zoning map and approve the Planned Unit Development (PUD), which allows for the Rock’s Edge Development proposed at the I-71/State Route 95 interchange.

Patrick Bracken, who lives on Township Road 178, was one of three residents who spearheaded the effort to stop the township rezoning.

“Most people did not have an opportunity voice their opinions on this,” Bracken said last week.

Bracken said he thinks township trustees did not do enough to spread the word to residents.

“This is a big disconnect with local government,” he said. “I did as much as I could to get the word out. We went door-to-door starting on (roads) 178, 177 and 176.”

Fifty-six signatures were needed to place it on the ballot, and 82 were secured. The petition was filed March 7.

“I believe we had everything we needed for a vital petition,” Bracken said.

The land where the proposed development is located is owned by Rockwell and Krista Bonecutter. The area had been zoned industrial and needed the zoning changes and PUD to allow for a mixed use development of industrial, commercial and residential to be built.

Members Terrence L. Sauter, chairman, and Dan Osborne and W. Timothy Sharrock ruled that “due to statutory defects in the petition, said petition will not be placed upon the ballot for the November 2019 election.”

County Prosecutor Charles Howland advised the Board of Elections that under Ohio Revised Code 519.12, ‘it must contain a brief summary of the proposed zoning amendment and a map of the area that would be rezoned.”

The board stated: “The referendum filed in this matter did not meet these requirements.”

Howland also advised that, according to a 2005 Ohio Supreme Court ruling, that “strict compliance with the requirements of ORC 519.12 are required. Substantial compliance will not suffice.”

According to the Bonecutters, Rock’s Edge will be built in phases over a 10- to 15-year period. They are hoping to break ground soon for Phase 1 of the development, which will include a commercial building and 32 apartments.

Bracken, who has lived in the county since 1993, thinks the development isn’t a good fit.

“People here have a very rural mindset; this is not an urban community. This is the type of community we want to live in,” he said.

Bracken said he had heard residents express concerns over possible increased crime and traffic congestion.

“This has nothing to do with Mr. Bonecutter personally, or his dreams or motivations,” Bracken said. “We wanted a safer, quieter, healthier community and that’s what we found here.”

By Anthony Conchel

The Sentinel