Liberty Township Trustee Peggy Guzzo thinks the township has "no choice but to appeal" a Delaware County judge's dismissal of the Target case.

Liberty Township Trustee Peggy Guzzo thinks the township has "no choice but to appeal" a Delaware County judge's dismissal of the Target case.

Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Duncan Whitney on July 21 dismissed the township's appeal of Powell's decision to approve a zoning certificate for the construction of the store, saying the township lacks standing to appeal.

Liberty has been fighting the Target proposal since 2007. The planned store site is at the southeast corner of Home Road and Sawmill Parkway, on Golf Village land annexed by Powell from Liberty.

"Liberty Township is not directly damaged by the issuance of the zoning permit, nor is it an aggrieved person," Whitney said in his ruling. "The court finds that Liberty Township unambiguously agreed that zoning control and enforcement over the area would be administered by the city of Powell."

Whitney added, "The court finds the BZA determination to be based on a preponderance of reliable, probative, and substantial evidence and therefore affirms the BZA determination and decision."

"I found it disappointing," Guzzo said. "He opined on some level of the merits of the case and dismissed it (saying) we had no standing. It seems he left us no choice but to appeal to protect our rights, our standing with the land that the CEDA covers."

Trustee Robert Mann said he, too, might lean toward appealing the ruling.

"I'm probably inclined to pursue an appeal, too," said Mann. "There is not a lot of case law on these agreements between cities and townships which are a new concept and you don't have a lot of case law out there. That makes a case like this ideally suited for an appeal."

Guzzo said the cooperative economic development agreement between Liberty and Powell that addresses zoning in the Golf Village area should give the township standing.

The township has argued a cooperative economic development agreement (CEDA) between Powell and Liberty gave the township the right to stop Target.

Whitney disagreed. He wrote there is "no provision of the CEDA which creates standing for the township which it would not otherwise possess."

The trustees were scheduled to discuss the case during a special meeting July 28. Check the Olentangy page at www.ThisWeekNews.Com for updates.

Powell City Councilman Don Grubbs said he hopes Whitney's decision puts the issue to rest. "Hopefully, Liberty Township will not waste any more taxpayer dollars with further appeals over this issue," Grubbs said in a written response.

City manager Steve Lutz released a statement saying, "The city of Powell is contractually obligated to implement the zoning that was established by Liberty Township. Our staff deemed that the proposed Target store met those zoning requirements, and their determination has now been vindicated after exhaustive review in two separate appeals."

Liberty Township trustee Curt Sybert could not be reached for comment.

Powell annexed the Golf Village area from Liberty in 2002, shortly after entering the CEDA agreement with Liberty.

The project initially was put on hold shortly after Powell development director Dave Betz approved a zoning certificate for the store in October 2007.

The case has been in the court's hands since July 2008, when Liberty appealed the Powell Board of Zoning Appeals' decision to uphold Betz's decision to issue the zoning certificate.

"We're very pleased with the decision. Judge Whitney got it right," said Bruce Ingram, attorney for Triangle Properties, developer of the Target site.

Mann said, "I'm pretty disappointed in the idea that this Target of 132,000 square feet and a parking lot is said to be pedestrian scale. Downtown Powell at the 'four corners' is pedestrian. It encourages walking and bicycling safely. If somebody tried to stick a Target at the four corners and say it was pedestrian friendly, I think they would get laughed out of Powell and that doesn't make it any different because it's out at Home Road."

He said, "The court has a limited scope of review. The court cannot change what the BZA found. But we think there are other issues that should have been addressed, such as we believe under the CEDA we had the right to declare the proposed development a major deviation and once we did that the CEDA required approval from both the township and the city to go forward."

bbutcher@thisweekenws.com