Thursday, June 24, 2004

Would-be Warren builder sues over no-growth block

By Erica Solvig
Enquirer Staff Writer

LEBANON - A developer whose planned subdivision in booming Hamilton Township was blocked has filed a legal challenge to Warren County's effort to slow growth.

In a complaint filed Wednesday in Warren County Common Pleas Court, Hamilton-based PBM Development, William and Sylvia Stotler and the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati seek to overturn Warren's Regional Planning Commission denial. They also want to make County Commissioner Mike Kilburn pay for his "tongue lashing," which they argue pushed other planning commission members into denying their plans. Their suit also says their constitutional rights were violated.

The appeal and lawsuit names the planning commission and Kilburn, both as a commission member and an individual, and the plaintiffs seek at least $25,000 from each defendant.

"My clients complied, in all respects, with the subdivision regulations and were disapproved only by the extraordinarily negative efforts by Mr. Kilburn, who by his own admission hasn't been to a (planning) commission meeting in several years," attorney Joe Trauth said. "He came in specifically to turn down this preliminary subdivision plat, relying on no reasons within the subdivision regulations."

The Regional Planning Commission last month denied two plans, known as the Stotler properties, that would have totaled 570 homes for Hamilton Township and the Little Miami School District - two areas where county leaders think growth must be better managed. Commission members said at that meeting that the design did not fit the area's rural character and expressed concerns over not having a traffic study.

Developers can appeal such decisions to the courts, but this case goes beyond a simple appeal.

The plaintiffs argue that Kilburn "acted outside the scope of his authority and for personal gain, benefit or motive." They also contend "Kilburn vocally and publicly cajoled, browbeat and sharply criticized other members of the RPC who dared to voice any opposition to his viewpoint."

The commission's executive director, Bob Craig, Wednesday declined to comment since he had not read the suit.

"It's no secret that we feel - the commissioners feel and me personally - feel that the growth in this township especially within the Little Miami School District, is way out of balance," Kilburn said Wednesday. "As elected officials, we try to do what's in the best interest of our county."



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