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South Euclid City Council Votes to Put Oakwood Rezoning Issue on Ballot

City responds to Ohio Supreme Court decision; developer First Interstate Properties has asked the court to reconsider

South Euclid City Council voted at its regular meeting Monday night to put the former Oakwood Country Club rezoning issue on the November ballot.

Council members approved the emergency resolution unanimously on its first reading, and it goes into effect immediately. City spokesman Keith Benjamin said he was going to submit the petitions and paperwork necessary to get the referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections today.

The decision comes as a result of . The court voted 6-1 to direct the city of South Euclid to either repeal the ordinance that granted rezoning or allow voters to decide what happens to the more than 60 acres of land.

The former country club is zoned for residential buildings, but developer First Interstate Properties . The city after a series of and council meetings.

Since then, there has been a , a group of South Euclid and Cleveland Heights residents that wants the land to be a park.

And it will continue.

First Interstate has asked the court to reconsider the ruling. However, Benjamin said he will still submit the appropriate documents to the Board of Elections.

“We certainly support residents’ ,” Benjamin said. “Regardless of what additional protests are being filed by First Interstate.”

South Euclid City Council unanimously approved the rezoning on June 27 so that First Interstate Properties, which bought 62 acres of the Oakwood land that falls within South Euclid in December, could build there.

The other 92 acres fall within Cleveland Heights, and First Interstate exercised .

After the decision was made to rezone the South Euclid side, Citizens For Oakwood 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 Benjamin, who is also the clerk of council for 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 was not supposed to be given to Benjamin.

As a result, the city decided to not forward the petitions to the Board of Elections.

Citizens For Oakwood filed a lawsuit and argued 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.

Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed. Because the clerk of council in South Euclid handles all of the duties surrounding referendums, the pre-petition document should have been handed to him, too.

But First Interstate filed documents Monday to ask the court to reconsider another issue that was included in the original complaint — the ordinance that granted rezoning was passed under an emergency clause. The South Euclid City Charter explicitly states that emergency ordinances can still be subject to referendums, but the Ohio Revised Code says they are exempt.

Though First Interstate President Mitchell Schneider said in a press release that he was disappointed in the ruling, he believes the city will vote for the rezoning so he can develop the land.

“We feel very good about our chances of winning this referendum,” Schneider said. “We conducted a survey in the spring and found that most residents of South Euclid want a mix of public green space and new retail options in their community. An overwhelming majority also think the new jobs and tax revenue are very important to the community. Despite the ruling, we will proceed with our planning process. We are in the process of having the Planning Commission review our site improvement drawings."

Citizens for Oakwood founder Fran Mentch said the group will continue its campaign to repeal the ordinance to rezone the land.

“Citizens for Oakwood is deeply grateful to the Ohio Supreme Court for deciding, as the Court states in the Slip Opinion, ‘in favor of the power reserved to the people to permit rather than to preclude the exercise of power,’” the group wrote in a press release.

Continue to check Cleveland Heights Patch for updates.

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