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Published: Wednesday, 12/6/2006

Title company sues over rezoning denial

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A denied request for a zoning change at the intersection of Albon Road and State Rt. 20-A in Monclova Township has once again resulted in litigation for the township.

The township, its board of trustees as a whole, and each of its three trustees individually are being sued by a title and trust company for the board's refusal to rezone a 10-acre plot exclusively for commercial use.

A civil suit was filed by Port Lawrence Title and Trust Co. in Lucas County Common Pleas Court last month and was assigned to Judge Thomas Osowik.

Similar suits were filed by different title and trust companies against Monclova for denying commercial zoning changes on the northeast and southeast corners of the same intersection in 2003. Those suits were dismissed in 2005 and filed again last March.

The plaintiffs in all three suits have retained legal representation from Jerry Parker of Gressley, Kaplin, & Parker, LLP.

The property involved in the most recent suit, located at 3802 Albon Rd., on the southwest corner of Albon Road and Route 20-A, is being held in trust for Maumee-based Sawicki Realty.

Eric Wagner, Monclova Township's zoning administrator, said Mr. Parker indicated the realty company intended to build small commercial communities on the property but didn't specify what those plans were.

According to the lawsuit, a zoning change from agricultural and commercial use to complete commercial use was requested on March 17.

The Lucas County Plan Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the zoning change on May 31, but the township's zoning commission recommended disapproval by a 3-2 vote on Aug. 14.

According to Monclova Township Trustee Barbara Lang, the trustees must unanimously approve a zoning change in order to overturn a recommendation of disapproval by its zoning commission.

Trustee Gary Kuns said he and trustee Brian Craig voted to approve the zoning change on Oct. 2, but Ms. Lang voted against it.

Ms. Lang said she voted against the zoning change because she "didn't want to see Route 20-A become Airport Highway or Central Avenue."

"I represented myself three years ago when I was running for my [trustee] seat as someone who didn't want to see that happen," she said.

"This is not news to anyone where I stand."

Ms. Lang later clarified her comments by saying she was concerned the zoning change would have paved the way for too much commercial growth along Route 20-A.

She said Sawicki Realty was welcome to build on the portion of the property zoned for commercial use (approximately two acres), but further commercial zoning was inappropriate for the area.

The trustee also said she was skeptical of the Lucas County Plan Commission's recommendation of approval because Jerry Sawicki III, of Sawicki Realty, is on the commission.

Representatives from Sawicki Realty and Port Lawrence Title and Trust, as well as Mr. Parker, all declined comment.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff describes the zoning change denial as "arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, and unreasonable" and argues that the township deprived the land owner of its property without due process or just compensation.

The plaintiff is asking that the township be ordered to approve the rezoning request and pay damages in an amount yet to be determined.



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