By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LOVELAND - The city's decision to allow commercial zoning at the historic White Pillars site continues to ping-pong through the court system as the issue defines today's City Council election.
Residents behind two lawsuits against the city lost on one front last week when Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Dennis Helmick sided with a magistrate and threw out the complaint because it was filed too late.
Residents David Miller and Paul Elliott, one of three residents challenging council incumbents, have 30 days to appeal Helmick's decision. Miller said they are leaning toward that. The two men do not have a lawyer and are representing themselves in the effort to overturn the zoning change at White Pillars.
City lawyers contended that the lawsuit was technically filed too late because Loveland officials were not served with the complaint until days after the legal deadline for appeals.
However, Miller, a longtime community activist, said he filed with the court on time and left service up to court authorities because Loveland administration had a history of refusing to meet with him or accept his documents.
Developers Hines-Griffin Joint Venture and Parrott & Strawser had planned to buy the 85-acre parcel off Ohio 48 for $3.4 million to build 72 single-family houses in the $300,000 to $500,000 range, plus 89 townhouses and a 16-acre commercial project.
City Manager Fred Enderle said the city can close on the sale of the property, allowing the developers to begin the residential portion of the project, if Miller and Elliott do not appeal.
Meanwhile, City Council hasn't decided whether to contest a separate decision by the 12th District Court of Appeals, saying the city was wrong in refusing referendum petitions to repeal a change in the city's zoning code that opened up spot zoning based on the White Pillars case.
Loveland officials filed a request for a stay to keep from accepting the petitions from Voice of the Electorate (VOTE) until council decides if they want to take the case to the Ohio Supreme Court, Enderle said.
VOTE, led by Miller, Elliott and council candidate Todd Osborne, sued after city administrators threw out the petitions, saying a document was not properly certified.
"We're going to persist as long as the city keeps us away from the ballot box," Miller vowed.
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