Wedgewood Limited Partnership president Charles Ruma said his plans are unaffected by the Liberty Township Board of Zoning Appeals' decision last week to uphold denial of a zoning permit sought for a Walmart store by Wedgewood.

Wedgewood Limited Partnership president Charles Ruma said his plans are unaffected by the Liberty Township Board of Zoning Appeals' decision last week to uphold denial of a zoning permit sought for a Walmart store by Wedgewood.

"If we don't get a permit, it's OK because Walmart is not interested in the site," Ruma told ThisWeek. "I heard that people are concerned that Walmart is coming back, and that is not true. The Walmart issue is dead."

Ruma said he is "pursuing other contracts in hope of getting a suitable user" for the site, 10600 Sawmill Parkway, in the Wedgewood Commerce Center.

The BZA's decision is the second time it has upheld zoning inspector Holly Foust's decision to deny the permit. The first was in January 2005 after Wedgwood appealed Foust's decision. Ruma appealed the 2005 decision to the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.

That year, common pleas Judge W. Duncan Whitney sent the case back to the BZA for its members to determine such things as "the basis of the zoning inspector's decision" and to "provide documentation of the legal basis for the 500,000-square-feet commercial limit on the Wedgewood Commerce Center Plan Development ... ," the BZA's findings of fact document said.

The township said commercial development in the center was limited to a total 500,000 square feet. The center also included retail and office space.

The commercial size limit was the basis of much of the disagreement between the township and developer.

The township said the proposed 220,598 square-foot Walmart would exceed the commercial limit, which had reached 390,611 square feet prior to the Walmart application.

Wedgewood said the commercial limit was designated to three subareas - about 34 acres - of the commerce center, not to the entire 345-acre center. The development consists of 17 subareas.

Wedgewood also sued the township in federal court.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley issued a ruling that agreed with Wedgewood's position about the 500,000-square-foot commercial use limit.

Township attorney Craig Paynter said the BZA wasn't "sure as to how much and to what extent" it was "bound by the federal decision," as it was not a party in the case.

"We were not sure what evidence or arguments were presented to the court," Paynter said. "None of the lawyers gave us dispositive case law to suggest how much we were bound by what the federal judge decided."

The BZA decided that the "500,000-square-foot limitation was specifically bargained-for and pertains to the entire Wedgewood Commerce Center territory." The findings of fact document said the evidence of that interpretation comes from discussions between Ruma and township trustees over several months in 1991 when the development's plans first began being discussed.

Ruma said the tapes from those meetings support his interpretation of the 500,000-square-foot limitation.

"It's ridiculous that they would find evidence that nobody else could find," Ruma said. "The tapes (of the 1991 meetings) proved me to be right on everything we said (about the development's plans)."

In the federal case, Marbley also said the township had denied Ruma's constitutional rights by issuing in January 2004 a public statement and instructions to the zoning department regarding future administration of the commerce center's development plan, which dates to 1992.

Marbley ruled such new instructions, for a plan that was already approved, are considered a violation of due process.

Such a zoning change would require hearings, but none was held, Marbley wrote.

The BZA found the January 2004 "instructions are not pertinent to this application, and there was no legally enforceable requirements for (Ruma) to follow a major modification procedure to the approved zoning plan."

Ruma's attorney Joseph Miller said, "In light of the decision of the board of zoning appeals, the matter will be back before Judge Whitney.

"This decision of the BZA comes from the same township that has already acted unconditionally toward my client," Miller said, adding the federal court instructed the township not to enforce its interpretation of the commercial footage cap.

"The federal court has already found that the township violated Wedgewood Partnership's due process rights, and as a result of the township's unconstitutional acts, Liberty Township taxpayers will have to pay substantial damages and the attorneys' fees of Wedgewood Limited Partnership."

Ruma had similar sentiments.

"This is the worst of politics and township government that I have ever seen in my whole life," he said. "The people that should be upholding the law are circumventing it."

Marbley still must rule on the financial damages in the federal case. The date for Whitney to review the BZA's recent decision is not yet scheduled.