September 3, 2014

Medina
Mostly clear
65°F

Auction house challenge continues

HOMER TWP. — Frederick W. Owen, owner of Homerville Produce Auction, hasn’t given up the fight to shut down a competitor.

Owen, who lost an appeal to the Homer Township Zoning Appeals Board against County Line Produce Auction last month, is challenging the board’s decision in Medina County Common Pleas Court.

County Line Produce Action, at Jeffery Road and state Route 301, was built in little more than a weekend in May by hundreds of Amish men.

Owen’s business, Homerville Wholesale Produce Auction, 9430 Spencer Road (Route 301), is less than two miles away.

Owen filed his appeal last week, claiming the board’s decision was “unconstitutional, illegal, arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and/or unsupported” by the evidence.

The zoning appeal DeFelice won focused on township Zoning Inspector Nancy Lilly granting an “agricultural exemption” to County Line in April.

According to Ohio Revised Code, the exemption frees operators of farm markets from needing building permits as long as at least half “of the gross income received from the market is derived from produce raised on farms owned or operated by the market operator in a normal crop year.”

Owen’s attorney said at the May 30 appeals hearing that the two produce auctions are similar businesses, but Lilly denied the same exemption to Owen two decades ago.

Lilly said she didn’t recall denying Owen’s request.

County Line’s owner said at the hearing that the auctions are different because the produce growers — almost exclusively Amish families — sign lease agreements and become “operators.”

Nick DeFelice, one of three owners of County Line, dismissed Owen’s appeal as sour grapes.

“There’s one person in the township upset about this, and it just happens to be a guy with a similar business,” DeFelice said. “Anybody in America has the right to free enterprise. This is getting to be harassment.”

Owen’s attorney, Trina Devanney, said no hearing has been scheduled in the case.

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