land advisory vote protested
By Kevin Kelley
Published Sept. 5, 2007
attorney representing the Westlake Board of Education has filed
a formal protest of an advisory vote that City Council is seeking
to place on the November ballot. The vote would ask residents whether
they want 42-acres of school district-owned land on Bradley Road
rezoned for recreational purposes.
land is currently zoned for residential use.
city and school board have been haggling over the property, which
the city wants for soccer and softball fields, for over a year.
an Aug. 29 letter to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, attorney
Craig S. Miller of Ulmer Berne LLP argued that the ordinance calling
for the advisory election is in violation of Westlake’s City Charter.
Charter prohibits “any ordinance referring to zoning” from being
designated an emergency measure and therefore prohibits such ordinances
from taking legal effect sooner than 30 days after passed by City
Council, Miller said.
passed the ordinance July 6, and the filing for the advisory election
was done on July 11.
the requisite 30-day period had not elapsed on the date the petition
submitting the ordinance to the Board of Elections was filed, the
filing was without authority and invalid under the Westlake City
Charter,” Miller wrote in his letter,
also called the proposed ballot language “grossly misleading” because
it asks voters to rezone the Bradley Road land to a zoning category
that does not as yet legally exist. City Council introduced an ordinance
creating a public recreation district but has not passed it.
letter goes on to argue that the advisory vote not be certified
by the Board of Elections.
Leasure, Westlake’s assistant law director, told West Life that
the school board’s protest is without merit. The ordinance City
Council passed that submits the issue to the Board of Elections
is not a zoning ordinance, she said.
enactment of (the ordinance) does not effect a change in the zoning
code or map of the city of Westlake,” Leasure said. “As a result,
the ordinance is effective on July 6, 2007, not 30 days after as
stated by the Board of Education. The ballot language as presented
to the voters will not effect any change in the zoning code of the
city of Westlake. Council is permitted by law to poll the residents
on the ‘concept’ of a rezoning to public recreation, prior to actually
making any significant changes to the City’s codes or zoning maps.
The outcome of the advisory election is of no legal consequence.”
a press release announcing the decision to protest the planned advisory
vote, school board members argued that current zoning of the property
allows for recreational uses, thus making the advisory vote inconsequential.
Board strongly believes it is in the best interest of our community
to maintain the flexibility currently allowed by the present zoning
of Bradley Road to allow for further negotiations regarding the
property,” the board’s statement said. “It is crucial that the Board
not be restricted in the negotiation process concerning the use
of the land. The city’s attempt to rezone this property could result
in the school district’s inability to use the Bradley Road property
for future school needs.”
Council President Michael Killeen told West Life that he was astounded
that the school board would spend public dollars on an attempt to
stop an advisory election.
don’t understand why the board has a problem with the owners of
the property saying what should be done with it,” Killeen said.
characterized Miller’s arguments as “grasping at legal straws.”
trying to stifle the citizens from having an impact,” he said. “The
only thing this election does is let the people make their feelings
has said that City Council, which has the authority to rezone the
Bradley Road property, would pass a rezoning ordinance and if the
advisory vote tells them to. In April, Westlake Law Director John
Wheeler told council’s planning, zoning and legislative committee
that the city could hold an advisory election on whether to rezone
the land for exclusively recreational purposes. The City Charter
only calls for a public vote on rezoning matters when the land in
question will be changed to include multifamily housing, a shopping
center, or an increase in population density, Wheeler said. Because
none of these factors apply in the case of the Bradley Road property,
a popular vote would only be advisory, the law director explained.
noted that City Council has repeatedly asked the school board to
attend public meetings to discuss the property. However, school
board members refused the invitation, saying they did not want to
negotiate in public.
school board has twice rejected the city’s offer of $1.9 million
for the property. The school board has city an asking price of $3.59,
which the city says is based on a faulty appraisal.
of Education President Renee D’Ettorre Wargo has criticized the
city’s efforts to rezone the Bradley Road property as an obvious
attempt to pressure the school board into a sale.