By DENISE GRANT
A referendum petition drive, meant to reverse Findlay Council’s decision to vacate the right-of-way for two undeveloped streets on the city’s east side, met its first deadline Thursday, stopping the street vacation from becoming law by just one hour.
Matthias Leguire, of 830 E. Sandusky St., submitted 216 referendum pages at about 4 p.m. Thursday to the Findlay City Auditor’s Office, bearing 1,455 signatures. A total of 878 valid signatures is needed to force the issue to a vote, according to Ohio law.
Ohio law requires referendum petitions to be signed by 10 percent of the number of electors who voted for governor, within the city limits, in the most recent general election.
Council voted Aug. 7 to vacate the right-of-way for Carrol Street and Benton Street, which were never developed. The right of way for the streets connects to Hawthorne Road, north of East Sandusky Street.
Leguire has said he uses the right of way of the streets to access the rear of his five-acre property. He says the right of way also provides an escape route from his property during floods, and gives him development options.
Under Ohio law, a referendum petition must be filed within 30 days of the mayor signing the legislation, which was Thursday.
By filing the petition, Leguire halted council’s legislation until the issue is resolved.
Now it will be up to the Hancock County Board of Elections to validate the signatures. If there are enough valid signatures, the referendum could go to a citywide vote in November 2019.
The petitions will be available for inspection at the city auditor’s office for the next 10 days. The petitions will then go to the elections board to be validated. The elections board will then have 10 days to validate the signatures.
On Aug. 7, council voted 6-5 to vacate the streets, with council President Ron Monday casting the tie-breaking vote. Voting in favor of the legislation were John Harrington, R-5; Dennis Hellmann, R-2; Dina Ostrander, R-3; along with Republican at-large Councilmen Grant Russel and Tom Shindledecker.
The same five council members requested the legislation in June, after a petition to vacate the streets was denied by the Findlay City Planning & Zoning Committee.
The City Planning Commission and the Hancock Regional Planning Commission also opposed the street vacation.
Chris Neely, of 841 Hawthorne Road, filed the petition to have the streets vacated. Neely argued that neighborhood children and pets play in the grassy areas. He wanted the streets vacated to stop Leguire from driving on the undeveloped streets.
Leguire has been at odds with city officials for months. First, because a fence he built was not set back far enough. Then, he challenged a new rule that requires Findlay homeowners to keep their grass mowed below 6 inches.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Matthias Leguire does contract photography work for The Courier.