April 20, 2014

Hazy moonlight

Judge overturns Westfield Twp., Kratzer out-of-court settlement

Click to read the Kratzer ruling.

A judge on Thursday threw out a lame-duck lawsuit settlement between ousted Westfield Township trustees and a commercial developer, ruling newly elected trustees have the right to rescind the deal.

“Since the new board has withdrawn their consent to the proposed agreement, the settlement agreement is no longer valid or before the court for consideration,” Medina County Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier ruled.

The proposed out-of-court settlement would have allowed Timothy and Linda Kratzer to develop 105 acres along Greenwich Road, which now is zoned primarily for rural homes. It also would have awarded the Kratzers $15,000 in damages.

The township’s attorney, Alfred Schrader, celebrated the ruling.

“I’m elated,” Schrader said. “That’s exactly what we hoped would be the result.”

Schrader had argued in court earlier Thursday that trustees William Thombs and Michael Schmidt had the right to rescind the agreement because they were elected in November to replace Gary Harris and Ronald Oiler, who settled the lawsuit with the Kratzers just days before their terms expired at the end of December.

“The newly elected board was the one who’d have to enforce and live with the settlement,” Schrader told the judge. “You don’t want to have an outgoing board impose its will on an incoming board.”

The Krazters’ attorney, Todd Hunt, argued the settlement should be accepted by the court, even though Thombs and Schmidt took office Jan. 1.

“The newly elected township trustees cannot renege, repudiate or go back on the agreement,” he said.

Hunt did not return a call for comment after the judge’s ruling.

Collier also ruled Thursday that the Kratzers’ complaint will continue as two lawsuits: one appealing a July decision by the township Board of Zoning Appeals and the other challenging the constitutionality of the township’s zoning laws.

The decision by the zoning board followed a November 2011 referendum in which voters overturned an earlier approval for rezoning by the trustees.

Both new trustees had a hand in denying the Kratzers’ attempts to develop their property. Thombs led the referendum petition drive and Schmidt chaired the zoning board that rejected the variance.

The Kratzers sued in August, arguing the township violated their right to develop the property, at 5669 Greenwich Road, southeast of the interchange of interstates 71 and 76, west of Chippewa Creek.

Dan Pompili contributed to this report. Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

  • Sandra Bilek

    Good decision by Collier; interesting the article doesn’t stress more the overwhelming referendum petition by voters in Westfield Township. Seems to me the people of Westfield Township by a vast majority spoke on the subject. Good to know that at least “somewhere” in Medina County there are elected leaders and citizens doing their job!

  • Joseph Doty

    Sandra, the reason the Judge didn’t cite the referendum as the reason for his decision is because there was no need. The decision was based on the fact that there is no longer a settlement before him since it was rescinded. Judge Collier is aware of the referendum and the wishes of the overwhelming majority of township residents.

  • Realistic

    This is finally done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Sandra Bilek

    Oh, no, case is not done, two lawsuits still pending, one challenging the Constitutionality of the townships zoning laws; the other appealing the July decision of the township zoning appeals board. I believe what Judge Collier ruling was that the outgoing trustees could not take the law into their own hands with their, Gazette’s words, “lame duck settlement.” Click on the link to read Collier’s ruling.

  • Sandra Bilek

    J.D., I was stressing that the Gazette didn’t impart more emphasis to the voters’ wishes with the referendum; not J.C. Glad to see you are with the citizens’ majority on this! You were awesome at the township hearing!

  • Realistic

    See, we agree on something!

  • Joseph Doty

    Imagine that! There is always common ground or maybe it is just a case of a common enemy.

  • Joe Hastings

    Strategically, if the motion to intervene had not been filed by local farmers and land owners the courts would have had to approve the Kratzer agreement as requested by Kratzer’s attorney the end of Dec. As it was the court could not approve the settlement until it heard the Intervener’s case Feb 13. This allowed the new trustees time to take office and file their objection to the Agreement. We all owe a world of thanks for those township residents that financially helped support the Interveners motion.

  • Sandra Bilek

    J.H. agree…. a world of thanks for citizens who take charge and speak up for your property values and way of life. And for voting out of office 2 trustees who were not acting for the majority. The rest of Medina County should look to Westfield Township!