The Ohio Supreme Court ruled this week that the Delaware County Board of Elections must reconsider a ballot measure aimed at preventing the creation of a joint economic development district in Berkshire Township.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled this week that the Delaware County Board of Elections must reconsider a ballot measure aimed at preventing the creation of a joint economic development district in Berkshire Township.

The high court issued a ruling Monday, March 2, that the board "abused its discretion" earlier this year by disallowing 76 signatures collected by petitioners due to questions over the authenticity of two of the signatures.

The township last year came to an agreement with the city of Delaware to create the JEDD, which will allow for the collection of Delaware's 1.85-percent income tax in a district centered on a planned Simon Property Group and Tanger Factory Outlet Centers mall. After the agreement was struck, a group of petitioners circulated and filed petitions calling for a referendum on the township's legislation enabling the JEDD.

The board voted twice in January to keep the referendum off the May ballot because of the two signatures in question. The board rejected two entire sections of signatures from the eight-part petition over the concerns.

Petitioners Gus Comstock of Delaware, Colleen Mann of Huron and Mary Ann Williamson of Berkshire Township challenged the board's ruling in the high court in late January.

The court ruled the board acted inappropriately by rejecting all 76 signatures on sections of the petitions over concerns regarding two names.

"The board erred as a matter of law in its conclusion that part-petitions must automatically be disqualified in their entirety if the signatures are fraudulent," the ruling stated.

The court ruled that a board of elections can reject full part-petitions only if it has evidence the circulator knew inauthentic signatures were submitted.

"The board did not establish a sufficient basis from which to infer that the circulator knew that the signatures were fraudulent," the ruling stated.

According to the ruling, the board must recalculate the number of valid signatures and, "if appropriate, certify the referendum for the May 5 ballot."

The entire court concurred with the ruling, except for Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, who concurred in judgment only.

The petitioners need the board to find five valid signatures among the previously rejected 76 in order for the referendum to be placed on the ballot.

The high court's ruling is the latest development in Simon/Tanger's efforts to build a 400,000-square-foot outlet mall near Interstate 71's interchange with U.S. Route 36/state Route 37 in the township.

If the JEDD is established, the developers could create a new community authority to levy charges on future businesses in the JEDD zone to pay for infrastructure improvements in the area.