By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LOVELAND - Voters here may get a chance after all to say whether they want commercial developments in their residential neighborhoods.
Clermont County Common Pleas Judge William Walker ruled Thursday that the City Council clerk should have accepted referendum petitions submitted last summer by Voice of the Electorate (VOTE).
More than 800 people signed the petitions, which protested council's July decision to change the zoning code so that residential properties of at least five acres could be rezoned for nonresidential purposes, even while surrounded by single-family homes.
The zoning amendment was approved so that Hines-Griffin Joint Venture and Parrott & Strawser could include commercial space when they develop the historic White Pillars property along Ohio 48. They are scouting for tenants for the 16-acre commercial development.
"The judge didn't hee-haw around. It's just a total vindication of what we've done," said David Miller, the VOTE member who sought court action late last year. Now, "hopefully everything will move forward and we'll have an election. Hopefully, we can convince the voters that this resolution can affect everyone in the city of Loveland."
City officials will meet soon to decide whether to appeal. Their contention has been that VOTE members erred when they submitted documents that stated their intent to file referendum petitions. That's why they were never accepted.
"I still think we were right," City Manager Fred Enderle said. "If we had to do it over again, I'd still reject the petitions."
But Judge Walker said in his decision that VOTE members did nothing wrong. VOTE member Paul Elliott had certified the documents, which also were signed by a notary public.
"There's a whole lot of people who feel very strongly about White Pillars and the environment around White Pillars. The only way to solve this dogfight is to let the voters decide," said Robert Newman, VOTE's attorney.
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