October 21, 2014

Medina
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Judge’s order halts opening of Amish auction house

MEDINA — An Amish produce auction house built over last weekend was barred Tuesday from opening pending a decision by the Homer Township Board of Zoning Appeals.

Visiting Common Pleas Judge Thomas J. Pokorny issued the temporary restraining order in a lawsuit filed by F.W. Owen, who owns the Homerville Wholesale Produce Auction, 9430 Spencer Road.

Owen’s auction is less than two miles north of the Amish market, 11701 Jeffery Road, which was scheduled to open later this month.

In his complaint, Owen said he would suffer “immediate irreparable loss” to his business if the Amish auction house opened.

“They have a right to build a business similar to mine,” Owen said, “but I think they should do that within the law.”

A hearing on Owen’s request for a permanent injunction is set for May 21.

Owen challenged the Amish project in an appeal of the Homer Township zoning inspector’s approval of an agricultural exemption for County Line Land Co., which worked with the Amish to build the auction house.

Nancy Lilly, the township’s zoning inspector, said agricultural exemptions are common in the township and are granted when more than half of the site is used for farming. To meet that requirement, she said some landowners will lease land to farmers.

She said there’s no investigation beforehand to grant this type of exemption.

“We’re not city people,” she said. “We usually take a person by their word.”

Owen filed his appeal on Thursday — one day before more than a hundred Amish men arrived at the site to raise the 28,000-square-foot, barn-like frame building.

On Friday, Owen filed the lawsuit in Medina County Common Pleas Court, charging that the Amish were building their auction house before a decision was made on his appeal.

Curtis Daniels, chairman of the Homer Township Board of Zoning Appeals, said the board will meet soon, but no date has been set.

Nick DeFelice, who runs the County Line Land Co., said he wasn’t notified that a suit had been filed or that there was a hearing Tuesday.

“I didn’t know about this until I heard it through the grapevine in the middle of the day today,” DeFelice said Tuesday. “I had to work, so I couldn’t get away to make it to the courthouse for the hearing.”

He said Owens was trying to stop the Amish auction house from operating because it was competition for his business.

Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler said he and Judge Christopher J. Collier withdrew from the case and requested a visiting judge because Owen’s wife is a magistrate in the Medina County courts.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.