Ohio Supreme Court: South Euclid Should Repeal Oakwood Rezoning or Put the Issue to Voters

Citizens For Oakwood challenged South Euclid City Council's decision to reject the referendum petition in August, and the court ruled in the group's favor

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled 6-1 in favor of a group trying to stop developers from building on the former Oakwood Country Club land.

The court announced today that it agreed with , which is made up of residents from South Euclid and Cleveland Heights, that South Euclid voters should decide whether the land is rezoned. The court has directed South Euclid to put the decision on the November ballot or repeal the decision to rezone the property.

South Euclid City Council unanimously on June 27 so that developer First Interstate Properties, which that falls within South Euclid in December, could build there. The land was previously zoned for residential property, and the company plans to build a mix of retail and residential properties as well as parkland.

The other 92 acres falls within Cleveland Heights, and First Interstate that land in March. 

After the decision was made to rezone the South Euclid side, Citizens For Oakwood, which is , collected more than the required amount of signatures to get a referendum on the November ballot to fight the decision. The group, as instructed in the South Euclid City Charter, submitted the petition and other documents to Keith Benjamin, clerk of council for the City of South Euclid.

Benjamin was ready to forward the petition to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, but First Interstate sent the city a letter Aug. 5 outlining three reasons it believed the petition was not sufficient, just a few days before the petition was to be submitted. 

Law Director Michael Lograsso said the developer was right about one thing — one of the pre-petition documents . The city was not aware of this, he said.

“To the best of my knowledge, we have followed the same procedure, and until this issue came along and there was a protest that was filed (by First Interstate), obviously the law director made the determination that the procedure was incorrect,” Benjamin said in August.

Citizens For Oakwood that everything else, according to the South Euclid City Charter, was supposed to be handed to Benjamin. The clerk of council is also the person responsible for submitting the paperwork to the Board of Elections.

But the city charter didn’t clarify who should receive that certified copy of the ordinance, said Lograsso, and if city law does not spell out those details, cities are supposed to refer to state law. Under the Ohio Revised Code 731.32, that document should have gone to the city auditor, not the clerk, he said.

However, the Ohio Supreme Court disagreed. Because the clerk of council in South Euclid handles all of the duties surrounding referendums, this pre-petition document should have been handed to him, too, according to the decision posted on the court’s website.

The court, like Lograsso, also reviewed First Interstate's other disagreements in the protest, including the argument that ordinances passed under emergency clauses are not subject to referendum. The court again disagreed. 

“The Court granted a writ of mandamus to compel council to either repeal a zoning amendment ordinance or submit it to a vote of the city’s electors on Nov. 8,” according to the announcement on the Ohio Supreme Court website.

Officials from South Euclid and Citizens For Oakwood were not immediately available for comment. Cleveland Heights Patch will contact them and First Interstate Properties Thursday for comment.

Ted Dick September 08, 2011 at 12:58 PM
I live in Cleveland Heights but would like to vote to stop development and have a park. To address Ms. Socher's comment, further building of unnecessary housing and retail will lower the value of your house. lLast night I just read a TIME magazine article about Lakewood actively tearing down houses in an effort to maintain housing prices. This area is over retailed and has too many houses. We need to redevelop existing housing and retail space not ruin green space. Green space will enhance your house's value and the region's appeal. Your investment in a park will have a tangible return.
michael levin September 08, 2011 at 03:18 PM
My offer to buy oakwood and turn it into a film school with the golf course remaining a golf course or park stands. Both Cleveland Heights and South Euclid do not seem interested in working with me but Cleveland State which is home to the Levin College is as well as my alma matter Case Western. I have also offered to work with Mitch to assemble the land north of Cedar Center so that development is not held up by these efforts. I believe Mitch to be reasonable and will eventually go this route.The question must be asked as to why could Mitch get tenants and the north side of Cedar Center could not?South Euclid has wasted 20 million to date and nothing but a party store having ground broken Why was Mitch not involved before? Perhaps Mitch should have taken this matter over a long time ago. I am working on thisd now.Peace!
Trish Sgro September 08, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Michael Levin you ROCK! I agree with you on all fronts. I believe there is a way to make this property a win win for everyone. As a South Euclid resident and aspiring filmmaker I support your concept for the property and wish you the best of luck. Don't give up and let me know if I can help. (trish@hotlatherproductions.com).
Donald R. Thompson September 08, 2011 at 09:06 PM
I am sure for a cool $5 million 1st Interstate will sell it
michael levin September 08, 2011 at 11:55 PM
So far they will not sell for $5million but maybe tomorrow. I believe all will work out for all parties including Mitchel Schneider whom I have met with and believe he will act with all parties best interests. Wonder why he was not involved with Cedar Center from the start,seems to be better able to get tenants in South Euclid than anyone I know and his record speaks for itself. I thank him for meeting and hope to work this out in the next 4 weeks.


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