Tim Paluf has been Highland Heights’ law director for almost two decades.
During that time he’s drafted thousands of ordinances and more than a few ballot issues---he drafted 3 Charter ballot issues just last year.
Needless to say, Paluf knows what he’s doing when it comes to putting pen to paper.
Which makes last week’s special council meeting puzzling and a bit disturbing.
After adjourning for its traditional month-long August recess, Council abruptly reconvened on Wednesday August 8th.
There was nothing to alert residents to the meeting; it just suddenly appeared on the city’s online calendar.
There was only one piece of business on Council’s agenda that night: enactment of a new GetGo-related zoning ordinance.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections (BOE)---which is the decision-maker when it comes to what actually appears on the ballot---objected to the confusing, gobbly-gook ballot language* that Paluf included in Ordinance 14-2012, the original GetGo zoning ordinance that Council enacted on July 24th.
* If you’re wondering why I call it “confusing, gobbly-gook” look at the bottom of my last blog posting. I’ve replicated the GetGo zoning ballot issue language that Paluf drafted. Read it and judge for yourself.
As it is wont to do, the BOE whipped out its editing pencil last week, intent on coming up with a clearer, more concise and more easily understood ballot issue.
During that process, the BOE determined that the zoning issue couldn’t include any references to either GetGo or the GetGo development agreement because there was no legal basis for including them.
There was no legal basis because Paluf hadn’t included any references to either GetGo or the development agreement in the authorizing language of Ordinance 14-2012.
Paluf admitted as much during the August 8th meeting. He said:
After talking to the (BOE) ballot language expert and his boss, they said the state would not allow a reference to that agreement (the GetGo development agreement ) without its being referenced in the ordinance…They were going to take that language out. …In order to refer to that in the actual question on the ballot, we have to incorporate it into …(the) legislation.
Wow. What’s going on here? Who knows.
There are actually going to be two zoning issues on the November ballot, both of which pertain to Brainard Road property. One of those issues involves rezoning property from Residential to a Parking District and the other involves rezoning property from Local Business to Motor Service.
Thanks to Paluf---and the way he drafted Ordinance 14-2012---Highland Heights voters weren’t going to be told, when they sat down to vote, that the Motor Service rezoning issue pertained to developer Lance Osborne’s proposed mega GetGo development project.
Council convened the special meeting on August 8th---the last day for getting local issues on the November ballot---in an attempt to remedy that situation.
It enacted a new GetGo-related zoning ordinance, Ordinance 23-2012.
New language was added to state that the rezoning of the front part of the Catalano’s property from Local Business to Motor Service:
“….is subject to Resolution 29-2012 authorizing the City of Highland Heights to enter into a development agreement with Brainard Crossing Holdings, LLC….”
Well, that’s some improvement.
Unfortunately, the authorizing language in the replacement ordinance still doesn’t mention either “GetGo” by name, nor does it refer to the development agreement by its title: “Brainard Crossing GetGo Development Agreement.”
And despite the BOE’s prior ruling, Paluf included the same confusing gobbly-gook ballot language that appeared in the original ordinance.
Residents can only hope that the new language in the hurriedly adopted Ordinance 23-2012 (which Paluf also drafted) is sufficient to allow the BOE to include an explicit reference to GetGo in the GetGo-related zoning issue that appears on the November ballot.
If not they will be kept in the dark on election day, which might be quite a lucky break for developer Lance Osborne.