Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Lebanon tripped up by ordinance ruling

Main Street road work protested

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A couple's successful lawsuit against the city may not only slow down reconstruction of Main Street but also cast doubt on the legality of four decades of city ordinances.

        “It puts everything into question,” said Marianne Casimir, a Main Street resident and wife of City Council candidate Gary Casimir. “We can have them tied up in court for eons.”

        Warren County Common Pleas Judge P. Daniel Fedders issued a summary judgment Friday that council erred in not reading a 1999 ordinance aloud and in full at a public meeting. Therefore, he ruled, it's “invalid, ineffective and unenforceable.”

        The ordinance allowed the city to take small strips of land from some Main Street yards to rebuild the street.

        The judge's decision probably will not delay the project, slated to start next year, City Attorney Mark Yurick said Monday, because council can simply pass a new ordinance that's read aloud.

        That could happen as soon as tonight. Council meets at 7:30 p.m.

        However, Rod Hilterbran said others with the Main Street Committee will follow the Casimirs' lead and challenge related ordinances.

        Street residents oppose the Ohio Department of Transportation's plan to remove on-street parking and add a center turn lane. They fear it will increase truck traffic and bring that traffic closer to their fragile, historic houses.

        The ruling surprised city officials.

        “In all of my years, it's always been read in title only,” said Amy Brewer, one of the longest-serving council members at nearly a dozen years. “And we have passed quite a bit of legislation.”

        The question now is whether any ordinance passed after being read “in title only” — a brief summary — since the city charter was adopted in 1960 is “invalid, ineffective and unenforceable.”.

        “I'm trying to figure it out,” Mr. Yurick said.

        Lebanon's argument — rejected by the judge — is that the charter's call for legislation to be read “fully and distinctly” is satisfied by council members' having advance copies so they can read it before voting.


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