By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer
NEW RICHMOND - Village leaders believe they acted properly when they passed an emergency ordinance in August to immediately rezone 56 acres of undeveloped, forested land along Bethel-New Richmond Road.
They say development of the site - namely, a proposed project for 155 "high-quality" homes - would contribute much-needed revenue to this Clermont County community of 2,200 that has yet to recover from the losses in the flood of 1997.
But some residents say village council erred when it approved the rezoning order using the emergency classification, which negates the need for voter approval and makes the order effective immediately.
They contend that the emergency classification is not clearly stated in the language of the ordinance as required by law and therefore is not valid.
Both sides are hoping a judge will end their dispute, siding either with council that the order is valid or with residents who say they deserve a right to vote on how the land should be used.
A hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. today before Clermont County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ringland.
Ray Perszyk, who lives across the street from the 56 acres, obtained more than 110 signatures in the hopes of convincing village leaders to let residents decide how the property should be developed.
"Everybody I've talked to is absolutely livid because of the way council passed this thing, disallowing us to vote on it," he said. "That's the main reason this is being challenged in court ... This is a fundamental constitutional right we're talking about here."
Mr. Perszyk added that his group is not against development, but that the land did not need rezoning. It was already zoned residential and can adequately support about 90 homes. But council's decision increased the number to 155 homes, decreasing proposed lot size.
Besides potential problems with drainage - the property sits on a hill - and density, there is only one road to serve the proposed site. That road, Mr. Perszyk said, is the route students take to get to the area's primary and secondary schools.
"Who knows how much traffic would increase," he said. "This could be a disaster."
Village leaders, however, say the community has lost more than $215,000 in tax revenue since 1996. To pass the rezoning as an emergency, they contend, was proper to curb the financial losses of New Richmond.
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