August 23, 2014

Medina
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80°F

Westfield Twp. may settle zoning suit

Westfield Township trustees and their legal counsel drafted a proposal at a meeting Wednesday morning that may settle a lawsuit filed by former township trustee Tim Kratzer and his wife, Linda, against the township over zoning.

“It’s in the best interest of the township. I feel the township did everything within its limits and laws, and we’re going by the advice of our attorneys,” Trustee Gary Harris said.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 12 in Medina County Common Pleas Court, alleges that parts of a township zoning referendum voters approved in 2011 violate the Kratzers’ rights to develop their property.

The Kratzers’ 105-acre property at 5669 Greenwich Road sits between Interstate 71 and Interstate 76/U.S. Route 224, just west of Chippewa Creek and north of Greenwich Road.

In July, the township Board of Zoning Appeals denied a use variance for the property, less than two years after voters in November 2011 overwhelmingly defeated a general business district amendment to township zoning laws that would have allowed the Kratzers to develop the land commercially.

According to court documents, the Kratzers say the location of the property makes it unfit for any use other than commercial development, and a zoning variance is needed. The land is zoned rural-residential.

The suit says denial of the variance prevents them from lawful development of their land and is unconstitutional and beyond the township’s authority. It also says the rules applied to the Kratzer property are “arbitrary and unreasonable” and are invalid; and alleges that the refusal of the variance is as good as taking the land from the Krazters and they seek monetary damages for the value of the property.

The decision to offer a settlement was presented to residents at a special meeting Wednesday at the Medina County Prosecutor’s Office in Medina at 8 a.m. Trustees went into executive session immediately to discuss the pending litigation and emerged to announce their
2-1 decision to offer a settlement at around 9:30 a.m.

The details of the settlement will be made public after the Kratzers and their attorney, Todd Hunt of Walter and Haverfield in Cleveland, have accepted it.

A public meeting notice says a special meeting will be 7 p.m. Dec. 27 to hear residents’ concerns, but only if the Kratzers approve the settlement. If the parties come to terms, the settlement will be sent to Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler for his approval.

Several residents and township officials say they are outraged and that trustees are trying to bypass the will of the public.

“They’re legal, don’t get me wrong. They get residential input,” trustee-elect William Thombs said. “But when are they going to take time to evaluate what the residents say? They’re not. They’re going to vote where they are.”

Thombs organized the November 2011 referendum and was elected this year along with Michael Schmidt, ousting Harris and Ronald Oiler.

Harris and Oiler, who have supported the Krazters’ plans, received only 17 percent and 19 percent of the vote, respectively. Thombs won the most votes, with 33 percent, and Schmidt, who chaired the zoning board of appeals that denied the Krazters’ request for a use variance in July by a 3-2 vote, won 29 percent of the vote.

Tim Kratzer declined to comment and referred all questions to Hunt, who did not return a call for comment.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.