It required a tie-breaking vote by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, but Grandview Heights residents will have the opportunity Nov. 6 to revise the city's Green Space Overlay District along Goodale Boulevard if they so choose.

Correction: A previous version of this story said the Elmwood Avenue lot split approved by the city in April 2017 is within the Green Space Overlay District. The property is not within the district.

It required a tie-breaking vote by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, but Grandview Heights residents will have the opportunity Nov. 6 to revise the city's Green Space Overlay District along Goodale Boulevard if they so choose.

If approved by voters, Issue 31 would amend the city code to redefine the overlay district in the area.

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 current overlay district requires the front yards of all properties to be at least 100 feet deep and side yards to be at least 25 feet deep.

The new ordinance proposed in the ballot initiative 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 to be constructed inside the minimum setbacks.

Jody Oster, a resident who lives in the overlay district area and one of the leaders of the petition drive for the ballot initiative, said Issue 31 is an effort "to preserve the green space we have remaining in Grandview Heights and especially along Goodale Boulevard."

What spurred her and others to generate the ballot initiative was the city's action in April 2017 to approve a lot split on a property on Elmwood Avenue after two previous applications were denied, Oster said.

"We feel the city relaxed or abandoned the existing building and zoning code and the design guidelines in favor of permitting more development in the green space," she said.

Issue 31 proponents believe the potential of litigation helped lead to the city's reversal of its original position, Oster said.

The ballot initiative will help keep properties in the overlay area intact and protect against potential efforts to redevelop properties by splitting them to allow additional homes to be built, she said.

"I often get people knocking on my door or calling me asking if I'm interested in selling my property," Oster said. "I don't think these are people looking to buy their 'forever home.' I think in many cases they are developers looking to buy property."

Oster said she and her colleagues have established a website, joingrandview.com, to offer their position on Issue 31 and the overlay district. The group also plans a literature drop ahead of Election Day.

Mayor Ray DeGraw said as a city official he is not able to campaign for or against the ballot measure, despite what his personal views on the issue may be.

"What we have done is post information on the blog on the city website (grandviewheights .org) laying out the facts about what a 'yes' vote would mean and what a 'no' vote would mean," he said.

The blog entry posted Oct. 2 states that Issue 31 "made the ballot despite concerns of the City administration and the City Attorney that passage of this proposed ordinance could be in violation of the Ohio Constitution, the City Charter and the prescribed public process for making changes to the properties' zoning."

The appropriate way to revise the overlay district would be through a public process that involves the planning commission and Grandview Heights City Council, DeGraw said.

The ballot initiative "sidesteps" that process, he said.

When the Franklin Board of Elections deadlocked Aug. 24 in a 2-2 tie on hearing the city administration's objection to placing the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot after proponents collected a sufficient number of valid signatures, Husted reviewed the case as the tie-breaking vote.

In his decision issued Sept. 8, 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 to the board of elections. "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."

"That was his judgment and political decision," DeGraw said. "We don't agree."

The Oct. 2 blog also notes that "several of the affected property owners impacted by the measure have objected -- and the city administration agrees -- that the ... measure restricts the landowners' property rights and fails to protect the due-process rights of affected owners. There could be potential legal and financial exposure to the City and taxpayers if the affected homeowners subsequently claim they've been deprived of their ability to use their property without due process."

Opponents of Issue 31 talk about the need to protect property owners' rights, Oster said.

"All the property owners in the overlay district have rights," Oster said.

"What about our right to make sure the green space in our neighborhood is preserved?"

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