A public referendum vote sought by citizens in Bethel Twp., Miami County, over rezoning of a parcel of land, will not be on the ballot in May because the petitions were filed too late by the township, county Board of Elections officials said Wednesday during their election certification discussion.
The referendum petitions targeted the rezoning of 60.457 acres on South Dayton Brandt Road owned by D.A. Bowman Construction, from A-2 agriculture zoning to R-1AAA residential.
A group of township residents circulated the petitions last fall after trustees had approved the rezoning.
Documents provided by the board of elections stated the petitions were delivered to the township on Nov. 22, giving the township 14 days to certify the petitions to the board of elections.
The petitions were filed Dec. 8, two days after the deadline, the election board members were told. The board voted unanimously to reject the issue for the ballot after reviewing a legal opinion from county prosecutors.
“What happened last night sets a dangerous precedent,” said Michele Pfronger, a township resident. She said she has been trying to find out what residents can do about the referendum’s fate. “I certainly hope that we, as residents, can do something.”
Bethel Township Trustee Beth van Haaren said the trustees did certify the referendum petition and delivered it to the board of elections.
“My understanding from the communication with the prosecutors office in December was that while certifying the petition after 14 days was not ideal, it would not impact the decision by the board of elections.”
Van Haaren said she “strongly disagrees” with the board of elections’ vote on the issue.
“Putting a referendum on the ballot is the right of a community, and I fully support that right,” she said. “The petitioners turned in the paperwork in the timeframe allowed, and the board of elections should certify the petition based on the number and validity of signatures, and the accuracy of the petition.”
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