Liberty Township violated Wedgewood Limited Partnership's constitutional right to due process, two of three Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judges ruled June 28.

Liberty Township violated Wedgewood Limited Partnership's constitutional right to due process, two of three Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judges ruled June 28.

The ruling was the latest in the township's six-year fight that began in an effort to keep a 220,598-square-foot Walmart store from being built in Wedgewood Commerce Center on Sawmill Parkway.

"The (judges' opinion) means we're entitled to the zoning certificate we've been denied for six years and it also means that Wedgewood is entitled to the millions of dollars of damages that it sustained fighting the township for six years," said Wedgewood attorney Bruce Ingram.

Ingram said the court's opinion "should lend weight" to the a related case that has gone to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Township attorney Scott Campbell said, "The two options available to the township at this point are to ask the full Sixth Circuit to consider the case and to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court."

"The trustees do intend to ask for a hearing before the whole panel of circuit court judges," township administrator Dave Anderson said in an e-mail. "The 2-1 decision, with a strong dissent, and the court's own recommendation for the decision to be published reflect the importance of this decision."

Dissenting judge James Carr said Wedgewood "cannot establish a due process violation" because it had withdrawn a zoning application before.

"The dissent means that it is a legal issue that is in dispute even among these three judges and in terms of the two appeal options open to the township at this point it makes the prospects that the Sixth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court would take the case higher because it is a close and disputed legal question," township attorney Scott Campbell said.

From the June 28 opinion, the township has 14 days to request a rehearing with the whole Sixth Circuit panel of judges and 90 days to file for a U.S Supreme Court hearing.

"The appeals at this stage are at the discretion of the court," Campbell said. "You have the right to make the appeal, but those courts may say we're not interested."

The Sixth Circuit ruling deals with a federal case filed in 2004 by Wedgewood president Charles Ruma, after the township denied the developer a zoning permit.

Liberty Township had appealed to the Sixth Circuit the September 2008 decision of U.S. District judge Algenon Marbley.

The township appealed several parts of Marbley's decision including:

Stopping the township from enforcing a 500,000-square-foot commercial cap on the entire commerce center. Wedgewood argued that the limit applied to only three subareas of the center. Marbley agreed with Wedgewood's interpretation. His ruling said the township could not enforce its definition of the 500,000-square-foot limit on commercial development in the commerce center. Finding that Ruma's constitutional rights were denied. The township's actions that Marbley said violated Ruma's constitutional rights occurred when trustees issued a January 2004 public statement and instructions to the zoning department regarding future administration of the commerce center's development plan, which dates to 1991.
Marbley ruled such new instructions, for a plan that was already approved, are considered a violation of due process.

That ruling permits Wedgewood to seek damages from the township.

Such a zoning change would require hearings, Marbley wrote, but no hearings were held.

The township contended there are no damages from the denial, township attorneys have said.

The court of appeals affirmed Marbley's decision.