MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio - The Amish's unprecedented step of trying to eliminate a township's zoning laws failed yesterday.
An Amish-backed proposal that would have repealed the Huntsburg Township zoning law failed with all precincts reporting. Fifty-eight percent, or 666 voters, rejected the measure and 480, or 42 percent, voted for it, according to the unofficial results.
Amish supporters say restrictions on the size of home-based businesses in Huntsburg Township are preventing them from opening woodworking shops as they shift from agriculture.
Such shops allow them to continue to work alongside their children - one of the tenets of the Amish lifestyle.
The Amish, whose religion dictates that they keep their distance from outsiders and modern conveniences, say they have nothing against zoning, but economic forces no longer make small farming profitable. They say they simply need more than 1,000 square feet for their shops.
The township trustees have asked the Amish to go through the court system to handle zoning requests, but the Amish say lawsuits are not a part of their way of life.
Three Amish men circulated a petition among their community to put the zoning issue on the ballot.
The Amish estimate they have about 500 registered voters in the township of 3,500 residents. They say they asked the non-Amish to support their ballot issue.
They also hired taxis to take them to the polls on Election Day - the Amish are permitted to ride in cars, but are not allowed to drive or own them.