Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Writ of mandamus issued in referendum case

Today the Ohio Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus compelling the Union County Board of Elections to remove a zoning referendum from the November ballot.

The relators were residents who had reached a zoning-and-development agreement for their land with Jerome Township, which was effected through a township resolution. Opponents of the development sought to place a referendum on the November ballot to overturn the resolution. The Union County Board of Elections, over the relators' objections, voted to place the referendum on the ballot.

The relators sought a writ of mandamus ordering the Board of Elections to remove the referendum from the ballot on the grounds that the referendum summary, which is required by R.C. 519.12(H), was misleading. The Court held that it was. In particular, the Court found that the summary's statement that the intersection closest to the development was Hyland-Croy Road and Route 161-Post Road was misleading. That intersection in fact was more than a quarter mile away from the development.

More importantly, the intersection of Hyland-Croy Road and Route 161-Post Road was immediately adjacent to a different development--and one that had been controversial within the community for a long time. The Court believed that voters reading a summary that identified the closest intersection as Hyland-Croy Road and Route 161-Post Road would wrongly conclude that the referendum related to the other, well-known, controversial development.

All this to say: context matters. Geography--which includes maps, but isn't just maps--is context. Know the community you're litigating in, and know your local courts.

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