By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer
BATAVIA TOWNSHIP - Residents seeking to block construction of a subdivision on 100 acres along Amelia-Olive Branch and Judd roads won a battle Thursday.
The Clermont County Board of Elections rejected a challenge to the citizen-backed referendum that was filed by the landowners, Archie Wilson and Eugene Hehemann.
Attorneys for the two men argued during a two-hour hearing that the board should remove the referendum from the November ballot for a number of reasons. Specifically, petitions signed by more than 400 residents didn't correctly identify the property by name or location.
C. Francis Barrett, one of the property owners' attorneys, told the board state laws related to the circulation of petitions, including use of the subdivision's full name, must be followed.
He argued that the petitions failed to specifically describe the location of the proposed subdivision as required by law. He also contended that some of the signatures on the petitions should be invalidated because the handwriting on the printed names differed from signatures.
However, Gary Powell, one of the attorneys for the residents, argued that much of the language contained on the petitions was taken directly from documents filed by the property owners.
In July, Wilson and Hehemann won their request to have the land rezoned so they could build the Twin Gates subdivision, a 203-home development on 99.6 acres.
Residents objected, saying they were worried the land might be tainted because it was once used as a dumping ground for barrels of lead-based paint. They also said a new subdivision would overtax existing infrastructure and increase traffic. And they argued that Wilson, a Batavia Township trustee, reneged on a campaign promise not to develop the land while he was in office.
Wilson has denied making any such promise.
Barrett was uncertain if Wilson and Hehemann would appeal Thursday's decision.
The election is Nov. 4. As a result of the referendum, Barrett said his clients have been unable to proceed with their project and continue to lose money.
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