Clearcreek Twp. driveway dispute decision expected

The Clearcreek Twp. Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled to reconsider a variance sought by Howard and Lisa Gray.

“We’re hoping we’ll be allowed to use our property,” Howard Gray said Monday.

The case sparked nationwide interest and sympathy from property-rights advocates and area residents.

“My heart goes out to them,” said Teresa Livermore of Englewood.

The zoning board was ordered to reconsider the variance by Judge James Flannery, the same judge who earlier ordered the Grays to pay for a new fence that blocked their access to the rear section of their property off Pennyroyal Road in Clearcreek Twp.

The Grays used the rear section of their property for tree removal, landscaping and storage businesses. They originally had permission from township officials to use the land for business.

The township ordered the Grays to stop using the land for business after complaints from neighbors, then filed a lawsuit in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

One neighbor, Jack Henkle, hired a lawyer. Neighbors testified that the Grays’ businesses created traffic and noise problems.

Henkle and his lawyer could not be reached Monday.

Judge Flannnery ordered the Grays to stop using the driveway to access 60 garages or parking spaces where they operated their businesses. After resisting, the Grays erected a gated fence and stopped using the land, which is zoned residential.

In June, Flannery ruled that the township board should reconsider the variance “forthwith.”

On Monday, Gray said he sold two other properties to finance the battle.

The township board is expected to meet at 7 p.m. today to consider the variance request without taking additional evidence, as ordered by Flannery. The board meets at the Clearcreek Township Administrative Center, 7593 Bunnell Hill Road.

Jeff Palmer, township director of planning and zoning, said he expects the board to decide “whether an unconditional variance is contrary to the public interest.”

The board also is expected to consider “whether granting an unconditional variance would result in substantial justice and whether an unconditional variance would alter the essential character of the neighborhood,” Palmer said in a statement.

“I anticipate they will be able to render a decision,” he said.

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