Lake Twp: Court asked to intervene in construction project

Larry Limpf

News Editor

A Lake Township resident is asking the Wood County Common Pleas Court to issue an order to stop excavation work on a construction project along Woodville Road.
Dan Prewitt, Pemberville Road, filed the court complaint April 22, alleging Hillabrand Holdings, LLC, has unlawfully proceeded with the excavation of a 7-acre parcel without obtaining a proper zoning certificate.
He also alleges Hillabrand, which owns the property and an adjacent 26 acres, failed to submit plans and specifications and the intended use to conform to the township zoning resolution and the company violated Wood County erosion and sediment control rules.
Prewitt’s complaint says the township’s zoning resolution states: “It shall be the duty of the zoning inspector to issue a certificate, provided that the structure, building, or premises, and the proposed use thereof conform with all requirements of this resolution. No permit for excavation or construction shall be issued by the zoning inspector unless the plans, specifications, and the intended use conform to the provisions of this resolution.”
The complaint asks the court to order Mark Hummer, the township police chief, to file misdemeanor charges against Hillabrand. Chief Hummer is also the acting township zoning inspector.
Prewitt is also asking the court to instruct Hillabrand to remove stone and asphalt material that has been placed at the site and bring the property to its original condition.
The complaint includes an affidavit signed by Joe Zemenski, a Bailey Road resident, stating that he witnessed the excavation and site development of the parcel from April 9 to April 17.
The seven acres are part of a 33-acre parcel that was the subject of a lawsuit between the township trustees and Hillabrand over zoning.
After the trustees last year rejected Hillabrand’s application to have the 33 acres rezoned from R-2 residential district to a B-3 highway business district classification, the company filed a lawsuit claiming the trustees’ decision denied the company “the economically viable use of the land without substantially advancing a legitimate government interest.”
The company said its intent was to build its headquarters on the property and to construct warehouse space.
In a mediated settlement reached in U.S. District Court for Northern Ohio, the township and company agreed to a compromise that allows five to seven acres to be rezoned.

Judge recuses herself
The Prewitt complaint had originally been assigned to Judge Molly Mack but has been reassigned to Judge Mathew Reger because of a “personal conflict” with Judge Mack that prevents her from hearing the case.
Judge Reger on April 26 allowed Prewitt more time to amend his filing.
“Upon review of the filings, it appears plaintiff (Prewitt) is seeking an ex parte temporary restraining order. However, the court notes that plaintiff has not complied with the mandatory requirements of Rule 65 of the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure. The court therefore grants plaintiff leave to amend his filings to comply with Civ. R. 65 within 14 days of the file-stamped date of this order. Should plaintiff fail to amend his filings, the motion will be denied and the case will proceed in the normal course,” the judge wrote.
Chief Hummer declined to comment on the lawsuit but said the township took action after his office received a complaint about construction noise at the site late on April 17.
“The morning of the 18th I confirmed that no permits had been issued prior to me becoming interim zoning inspector. I checked with the county engineer’s office first thing and confirmed there were no storm water management plans,” the chief said. “I consulted with the prosecutor’s office and the engineer’s office issued a stop work order and the order was adhered to. We are now working through the permitting process with the property owner.”
Matthew Fischer, attorney for Hillabrand, said he’s reviewing the case and wanted to discuss it with his client before commenting.
Kelsie Hoagland, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said a contractor working on a project along I-280 was using the Woodville Road site to deposit soil and other material.
The contractor has since stopped using the site and is using an alternative site, she said.
“Once ODOT sells the project to a contractor, it is the contractor's responsibility to identify where they will relocate their project materials and ODOT does not weigh in on those decisions,” Hoagland said. “There was an original projection of approximately 1,000 cubic yards of soil and other materials to be relocated to the site. However, only a fraction of material relocation had occurred when the location's use was halted.”


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