A residents group's initiative to revise the city of Grandview Heights' Goodale Avenue Green Space Overlay has cleared a hurdle to its placement on the Nov. 6 ballot after a bit of wrangling at the state level.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Sept. 12 that he would cast a vote denying the Grandview administration's objection that the initiative was invalid.
"Obviously, we're pleased that he decided the matter on its merits," said Jody Oster, one of the organizers of the initiative effort. "This could very well have been a political decision, and we're glad that it isn't.
"We think the city (administration) was banking on its political clout to keep it off the ballot," she said. "It didn't turn out that way."
The measure would increase the amount of green space required on certain lots that front Goodale Boulevard.
Mayor Ray DeGraw declined to comment about Husted's decision, citing a closed-door session Grandview Heights City Council was scheduled to hold as part of its Sept. 17 meeting to discuss what, if anything, the city will do in light of Husted's decision.
"The options are either we go on the ballot (with the initiative) or it's appealed to the next level, which would be the Ohio Supreme Court," DeGraw said ahead of the council meeting, which was held after ThisWeek Tri-Village News' deadline.
DeGraw said he wasn't certain whether any action would be taken after the closed session.
After Oster's group collected enough valid signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot, the administration forwarded it to the Franklin County Board of Elections with an objection and a request that the board withdraw it from the ballot.
Last month, DeGraw said the administration filed an objection to placing the initiative before voters in part because "we believe it goes beyond what the Ohio Constitution and our city charter allow."
Both Ohio law and the city's 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, he said.
The board of elections' consideration of the objection resulted in a 2-2 vote Aug. 24.
Board member Brad Sinnott made a motion at the meeting that the initiative petition was invalid and board Chairman Douglas Preisse voted with him. Board members Michael Sexton and Kimberly Marinello voted against the motion that the petition was invalid.
By state law, the matter was sent to the secretary of state to serve as the tie-breaking vote.
In his letter to the board of elections, Husted said that in this case, "the law is clear: zoning and rezoning are legislative acts and as such are subject to initiative under the Ohio Constitution."
The initiative proposal "would be a change to the current use of city territory -- a rezoning," Husted stated in his letter. "Zoning and rezoning is a subject matter that the Grandview Heights City Council is authorized by Ohio law to control by legislative action. Therefore, the proposed initiative appears to comply with the Ohio Constitution's content restriction on power of initiative."
Husted also rejected the argument made by the city administration and Sinnott and Preisse that the initiative was invalid because the petitioners were not following the process Grandview Heights City Council must follow to adopt or amend a zoning ordinance. That process would include submission to the planning commission, a recommendation by the commission to City Council and consideration and vote by council.
"This argument is confused," Husted said.
The applicable language in the Ohio Constitution refers only to the requirements Ohio law places for petitioners to place a municipal initiative on the ballot, including the number of required petition signatures and the proper office in which to file the petition, he said.
"None of the materials presented for my consideration raise concerns that the initiative petition did not meet those requirements," Husted said, and so the proposed initiative appears to comply with the Ohio Constitution.
"The petition falls within the scope of a municipal political subdivision's authority to enact via initiative," he said.
The existing Green Space Overlay District was created in 1989 and covers all lots on the north side of Goodale Boulevard between Broadview Avenue and Wyandotte Road and lots on the south side of Goodale between Grandview Avenue and Lincoln Road.
All properties in the district must have a minimum front yard of 100 feet and a minimum side yard of 25 feet.
The initiative would create a new ordinance to 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 to be constructed inside of the minimum setbacks.
Oster said the initiative group would mount a campaign ahead of the Nov. 6 vote.
The group plans to hold public meetings to provide more information, she said.
As more people are learning about the issue, they are supporting the group's position that green space along Goodale should be protected, Oster said.