A Findlay property owner’s challenge of a controversial street vacation has taken a wrong turn with the news that the city has already closed two undeveloped streets before voters have had a chance to weigh in on the matter.

Matthias Leguire questioned city officials about that development last week, noting that Carrol and Benton streets appear on city property maps as being vacated even though he has gathered enough signatures to get the issue on the November ballot.

If voters were to approve the referendum, City Council’s action on Aug. 7 to vacate the two streets would be reversed.

Leguire’s attorney, Robert H. Griffin Jr. of Columbus, had written to City Law Director Don Rasmussen on Dec. 28, advising that the city’s premature update of the maps “appears to be a clear violation of Ohio law.” Ohio Revised Code 731.29 provides for a city ordinance to be put on hold once a referendum petition has been filed.

Griffin said “appropriate legal action” would be taken if the city records are not corrected within 14 days.

Rasmussen has said his office would investigate the city’s options. But he shouldn’t go searching for loopholes to try to quash Lequire’s challenge.

Any investigation shouldn’t take long. If Lequire’s referendum petitions are valid — and there’s been no claim they aren’t — the vacations of Carrol and Benton streets shouldn’t take place until after voters decide if the city overstepped its authority.

The two streets in question were never developed and connect to Hawthorne Road, just east of downtown Findlay.

Leguire, whose property fronts East Sandusky Street, wants to maintain an access to Hawthorne from his northern property line. Despite his opposition, and without explanation, council moved forward last year even though three different city or county agencies had opposed the street vacations. Almost always, a vacation is not allowed unless all affected property owners agree.

Short a compromise between the city and Leguire, which seems unlikely, the city must let the matter play out at the ballot box. Keeping that from happening after Leguire’s petitions, containing over 1,000 valid signatures, had been approved by the Board of Elections, would send the wrong message.

It’s a shame it will take so long to resolve the issue, but the timetable is dictated by law. Certainly, the city can’t just ignore Leguire even if it believes his position lacks merit.

City officials, including Rasmussen, have been well aware of Leguire’s referendum effort for over four months. If there was a problem with the procedure it should have been brought to the forefront well before now.

Any citizen has a right to question certain council actions through the referendum process. Voters, not government officials, should decide the fate of this small, but important, property rights case.

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