By Haylee Pence
TROY — The Bethel Township Trustees and several Bethel residents filed a protest against the Miami County Board of Elections decision to reject the Bethel referendum regarding the rezoning of 60 acres of land in Bethel Township.
On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a protest hearing was held where protesters, interested parties, residents, and Board of Election members were able to provide statements, evidence, and discussions about the Board of Elections decision.
Ultimately, after much debate and discussions, the Board of Elections voted unanimously to uphold their decision to reject the referendum, which was initially rejected due to the Bethel Township Trustees not submitting the referendum within the two-week deadline.
The Board of Elections Chairman Dave Fisher stated, “deadlines are deadlines.”
The Bethel Township Trustees approved the zoning resolution at their meeting on Oct. 25, 2022, with a 2-1 vote for the rezoning. Then, on Nov. 22, Natalie Donahue, Bethel resident, submitted a petition for a referendum to the Bethel Township Trustees. From that, the Bethel Township Trustees had two weeks to certify and submit the petition for a referendum to the Miami County Board of Elections. The referendum was submitted two days past the two-week deadline. The Board of Elections rejected the vote at their Feb. 8, meeting.
Bethel Township Trustee Donald Black provided the section of the Ohio Revised Code pertaining to zoning amendments, Section 519.12.
In the code it states, “The petition shall be filed with the board of township trustees and shall be accompanied by an appropriate map of the are affected by the zoning proposal. Within two weeks after receiving a petition filed under this section, the board of township trustees shall certify the petition to the board of elections. A petition filed under this section shall be certified to the board of elections not less than ninety days prior to the election at which the question is to be voted upon.”
Alex and Ian Bowman with Bowman Construction, the developers, had brought up a concern regarding the “appropriate map” portion of the Section 519.12 (H) due to the map that was allegedly attached with the petition. According to Ian, the map depicted the entire 90-acre parcel, which only 60 acres were asked to be rezoned for housing developments.
It was argued by Bethel Township Trustee, Julie Reese, that since the entire 90 acres will be impacted by the development.
Corey Columbo, legal counsel for Natalie Donahue, expressed his opinion that several petitions and applications “rarely make the two-week deadline.” He continued to say how he believes the deadline is to push the trustees to file the referendum and not to punish the petitioners saying it should “not be used as a sword, but as a shield to protect petitioners.”
Board of Elections member Rob Long asked the audience, “Do you think that the voters of Bethel Township will be disenfranchised if this is not on the ballot?”
Don Black, Bethel Township trustee, responded, “Absolutely. Even though I disagree with them. I want the houses. But this is a democracy.”
Bethel Township Trustee Julie Reese commented at the end of the meeting, “I’m disappointed. We’ve let down our township.”