Delaware News

Outlet-mall developer files suit against township

Protest also filed against Berkshire Township referendum to stop another mall's construction


A day after its rezoning request was denied, outlet mall developer NorthGate Centre filed a suit against Berkshire Township trustees, the zoning commission and Township Administrator Jeff George.

The suit that was filed Tuesday, Aug. 13, with Delaware County Common Pleas Court, asks for an injunction that could overturn the trustees' Aug. 12 decision, which shot down the rezoning of 88 acres south of routes 36-37 near Interstate 71 where NorthGate planned to build an outlet mall, offices and a sports complex.

"Berkshire Township and the members of its zoning commission and board of trustees committed illegal and unconstitutional acts regarding NorthGate's attempts to rezone and develop property south of state Route 36-37 in the township," the suit reads.

NorthGate Centre claims in the suit that it was treated unfairly compared to competing developers preparing to construct a Simon/Tanger outlet mall on the other side of the road. According to the 18-page filing, NorthGate was required to complete a traffic study and prove it had an option on the property up for rezoning when Simon/Tanger developer Joe Cimenello was not.

The suit also calls into question the validity of the zoning commission and whether it gave proper notice of an April 4 public hearing on the rezoning.

On June 20, the zoning commission denied NorthGate's rezoning application. That decision was upheld Aug. 12 when a board of trustees vote resulted in a tie.

Because of the denial, the suit claims NorthGate lost the option on the 88 acres, which subsequently cost the developer a $110,000 nonrefundable deposit.

Neither party will comment on the suit because it is ongoing.

The Simon/Tanger mall continues to move forward, despite facing a referendum that residents have submitted to be placed on the November ballot.

The referendum would overturn the rezoning of the 206 acres north of routes 36-37 where Simon Property Group and Tanger Factory Outlet Centers plan to build a 350,000-square-foot mall.

On Aug. 13, an attorney representing Virginia Buell filed a protest against the referendum.

The protest claims that 190 of the 273 petition signatures are invalid because one of the circulators printed names next to signatures. If the Delaware County Board of Elections determines the circulator violated petition law, the referendum would not qualify for the ballot.

Rick Bowman, who has helped to lead the referendum drive, said he is not concerned that his group's hard work collecting signatures will go to waste -- especially since he said petition circulators were advised by their attorney to print the names in the margin to make the board of elections workers' jobs of verifying the signatures easier.

"I just think it's sad that the Buell family is trying to take away the opportunity for the people to give their opinions," Bowman said. "Win, lose or draw for the outlet mall, we want to give people the opportunity to vote."