By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LEBANON - Under threat of litigation, Warren County commissioners reversed course and approved the layout of a new Hamilton Township subdivision in an emergency session Wednesday.
"Under what I'm hearing today, we might as well not have county commissioners because we have no authority," Commissioner Mike Kilburn said after a closed-door session with prosecutors. "When it comes down to the important things, like another 800-home subdivision in a place where we don't need another 800-home subdivision, we don't have any discretion."
Mr. Kilburn and fellow Commissioner Larry Crisenbery refused Tuesday to approve a 58-lot plat, or layout, for section five of the 877-home Regency Park subdivision in Hamilton Township. The lots cannot be recorded without commissioners' signatures, according to the county's subdivision regulations, and until they're recorded they cannot be built upon or sold.
But Assistant Prosecutor Bruce McGary told commissioners they have no discretion over signing the plats because the township approved the zoning and the Regional Planning Commission ruled that the plat met subdivision regulations.
The commissioners' emergency meeting came after Joe Trauth, a Cincinnati attorney representing MI Homes, sent prosecutors a letter Wednesday morning threatening a lawsuit against the county commission and Mr. Kilburn and Mr. Crisenbery individually.
"Not signing (the plat) was a defiant act above and beyond the scope of their duties which could subject them to personal liability," Mr. Trauth said.
Pat South, the only commissioner who voted to sign the plat Tuesday, said Wednesday the board should work with local communities to control growth: "We can't change rules midstream."
Mr. Kilburn and Mr. Crisenbery said their motive in initially refusing to approve the plat was to slow the buildup of Ohio's second-fastest-growing county.
"I just hope the Hamilton Township trustees realize what they're doing with all these lots," Mr. Crisenbery said. "They're different from Deerfield Township in one way, and that's that (Hamilton) doesn't have any tax base."
Hamilton Township Trustee Clyde Baston, however, said Mr. Kilburn was targeting home builders because they backed his challenger in the Nov. 5 election.
Even after meeting with prosecutors, Mr. Kilburn agreed to the Regency Park plat and another for Wayne Township with great reluctance.
"I guess, `yes,' " he said when it was his turn. "I don't want to go to jail.
"Not this close to Christmas," he said after a pause. "I haven't even got my Christmas shopping done yet."
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