Sprawl-busters in Orange Township, in Delaware County, Ohio, have been fighting a Home Depot rezoning since January, 1999. As reported in the Columbus Dispatch newpaper, voters have gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the November, 1999 ballot. But the developer (Zaremba group) challenged the referendum’s legality. Despite that challenge, the Delaware County Board of Elections approved adding the referendum to the ballot. The developer then filed for a permanent injunction against the vote. The request by the developer will be heard December 1st by visiting Judge Dean Curl of Morrow County. It therefore appears that the votes will be taken in November, and then impounded until after the Judge’s hearing.
Developers are often hair-trigger quick when it comes to preserving their right to petition government, but don’t seem as comfortable with democracy when it is placed in the hands of citizens. After all, democracy can be pretty frightening to a developer. Home Depot and Wal-Mart have both spent enormous sums of money to win referendums on zonign issues, but this case, and the case in Huntington Beach, CA (see Sept 5th. below) are similar efforts by developers to block citizens through legal challenges to initiative petitions. What’s more important to presever here: democracy, or profits? What a number of Ohio towns have now done is require a ballot vote in cases of rezoning, and the measure must prevail not only citywide, but also in the precinct in which it is located. This make signature gathering unnecessary, because a rezoning vote would automatically go to referendum.