The Franklin County Board of Elections is scheduled to hold a hearing Friday, Aug. 24, to consider Grandview Heights' objection to an initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot that would modify the city's existing Goodale Green Space Overlay District.
The district was created in 1989 and covers all lots on the north side of Goodale Boulevard between Broadview Avenue and Wyandotte Road, as well as lots on the south side of Goodale between Grandview Avenue and Lincoln Road.
The south-side property includes city-owned land and Wallace Community Gardens, McKinley Field and the tennis courts. The north side is private residential property.
The overlay district requires all properties to have a minimum front-yard depth of 100 feet and a minimum side yard of 25 feet.
The initiative set to be included on the Nov. 6 ballot would, if approved by voters, enact a new ordinance to revise the overlay district.
The new ordinance would set a minimum front yard of 200 feet on the north side of Goodale between Urlin Avenue and Wyandotte Road. The minimum front-yard requirement would be 150 feet on Stonegate Village Drive.
The measure would prohibit any building from being constructed inside the minimum setbacks.
"Our desire in getting the initiative to the ballot is to protect and preserve the remaining green space in the city," said Jody Oster, who led the petition drive with William Thompson and Raymond Tesner.
All three live in the overlay district.
One of the triggers that led to the petition drive was the planning commission's approval in April 2017 of a variance request to grant a lot split of the property at 1000 Elmwood Drive that would allow for future construction of a single-family home on the newly created lot.
"It was a controversial request that had been denied twice before after a number of neighbors showed up to voice their concerns," Oster said.
The initiative is designed to redefine the green-space district to keep that precedent from being followed by other similar actions, she said.
"Our goal is to preserve the green nature of the area and make sure there's no chance of it being overdeveloped," Oster said.
The petition drive netted 356 certified signatures, well above the 275 required to qualify the initiative for the Nov. 6 ballot, she said.
The 275 threshold represents 10 percent of the total votes cast in the city in the last gubernatorial election.
Although the city accepted the petition and forwarded it to the board of elections, "we forwarded it (with) an objection," Mayor Ray DeGraw said.
The city has formally petitioned the board of elections to withdraw the initiative from the November ballot.
"Our real objection to this initiative is that a proposal would go to the ballot that takes away without due process the right of a property owner to seek a redevelopment of their property," DeGraw said. "It in effect throws away private property rights."
"We believe this initiative goes beyond what the Ohio Constitution and our city charter allow," he said. "Ohio law and our codified ordinances require proposed changes in zoning law or to the city's zoning map first be considered by the planning commission with a public hearing and then have the commission's recommendation forwarded to City Council for its action, also with a public hearing.
"This initiative shortchanges several steps," DeGraw said.
If someone wanted to propose modifying the overlay district, the appropriate way would be to make a presentation to council, which would then ask the planning commission to review and make a recommendation on the proposal, he said.
"All of that would be done with opportunities for public input along the way," DeGraw said.
That may be true for proposals to make zoning changes that emerge out of City Council, Oster said. But an initiative petition is the way the public can propose zoning changes, she said.
"That by definition is a public process involving public input," Oster said.
When the city originally created the Green Space Overlay District in 1989, most of the property owners in the affected area supported the idea, DeGraw said.
"We had one property owner who didn't support the setback requirements because he said they would restrict his ability to build on his property." he said. "He filed suit against the city and we ended up with a settlement where the city purchased his property."
DeGraw said he fears the city could face similar lawsuits if the initiative is approved.
The city's objection to the initiative will be heard at a board of elections meeting Aug. 24 at the Franklin County Board of Elections office, 1700 Morse Road. As of Aug. 20, the time for the hearing had not been finalized, public information officer Aaron Sellers said. Several other hearings regarding ballot issues also will be held during the meeting, he said.
"Typically, what happens is that the board will listen to attorneys representing both sides and make their decision right there at the meeting," Sellers said.