Olentangy Valley News

County board of elections verifies signatures on trio of petitions

Efforts to allow Powell voters to decide on downtown apartments closer to ballot


Residents have collected enough signatures to allow voters to decide whether an apartment complex should be developed near downtown Powell, according to the Delaware County Board of Elections.

A group of residents submitted petitions to the city in mid-July supporting two initiatives and a referendum regarding multifamily housing development in the city.

One initiative and the referendum are aimed at blocking the development of the Center at Powell Crossing, a 64-unit, mixed-use apartment complex planned on West Olentangy Street.

The second initiative proposes a charter amendment that would put residents in control of revising the city's comprehensive plan and could ban apartment developments in downtown Powell.

For the measures to make the November ballot, the petitioners had to collect at least 238 signatures from Powell residents on each petition. That number represents 10 percent of the city's voters in the last regular municipal election -- a benchmark set by the city's charter.

Board of elections officials announced Friday, Aug. 1, they had verified more than 360 signatures on each of the three petitions. The petitioners had submitted more than 400 signatures in support of each of the measures.

After verifying the petitions, the board alerted the city of Powell of its findings.

City Council voted unanimously Tuesday, Aug. 5, to table the initiative and referendum and held a first reading of the charter amendment without voting on the sufficiency or validity of any of the three petitions. Council and Powell Law Director Gene Hollins agreed it was necessary to postpone the vote until they could fully examine recent legal documents submitted by lawyers representing both the developer of the Center at Powell Crossing and the petitioners.

Hollins told a crowded council chamber that board of elections officials had confirmed that tabling the measures until Aug. 19 would not prevent them from making it onto the November ballot.

Tom Happensack, spokesman for the petitioners, said the city’s charter required council to act immediately to address the validity of the petitions after the board of elections’ ruling. He and other residents advised council against tabling the measures.

“Any delays in your votes puts the citizens, the petitioners, at risk of running out of time,” he said. “That’s patently unfair to us.”  

City spokeswoman Megan Canavan said council must determine if the petitions meet the guidelines for initiatives and referendums set by the city's charter.

"There's not a whole lot of room for (opinion)," she said.

Council was not expected to vote for or against the legislation proposed by the petitioners.

One initiative would repeal the final development plan for the Center at Powell Crossing, set for construction at 147 W. Olentangy St. The referendum would allow residents to cast "yes" or "no" votes on the project and was submitted in case the first initiative was kept off the ballot for unforeseen reasons.

The second initiative would create a charter amendment establishing a new Comprehensive Plan Commission. The commission would consist of the presidents of the Bartholomew Run, Grandshire, Liberty Lakes, Murphy Park and Olentangy Ridge homeowners associations, or their designees.

A city committee already is in the process of revising the city's 20-year-old comprehensive plan, and it's not clear whether the new commission would supersede the existing committee if the amendment passes.