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Published: Thursday, 7/25/2002

Mall opponents' petitions validated

Opponents of the proposed Mall at Fallen Timbers obtained enough valid signatures for a referendum vote on the mall's permit, but the developer likely will challenge the issue.

The Lucas County Board of Elections counted 999 valid signatures on the petitions, which were submitted earlier this month to Maumee city hall. Only 581 valid signatures were required for the referendum.

Now that the signatures have been counted, the petitions will be returned to city hall this week. After that, the referendum issue will be certified and filed with the Board of Elections for placement on the November ballot, David Hazard, finance director/municipal clerk, said yesterday.

However, the developer contends that Maumee City Council's decision to grant the mall's permit cannot be the target of a referendum.

Council's decision was an administrative decision, not a legislative action, Louis Bucksbaum, senior vice president for General Growth Properties, said yesterday.

"It comes down to the law," he said. "It is not a referendum-able issue." The Board of Elections, Mr. Bucksbaum said, "will say that it can't go on the ballot."

After the city submits the issue to the Board of Elections for placement on the ballot, the developer can file an election protest.

If a protest is filed, the board will conduct a hearing and determine whether the protest has merit, said Paula Hicks-Hudson, deputy director of the Board of Elections.

In a 1998 case, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a site-plan review involves an administrative decision by council and is not subject to a referendum under state law, according to Sheilah McAdams, Maumee's law director. The city's charter adopts state law for challenges to ordinances enacted by council, she said.

Shortly after the referendum petitions were filed in early July, organizers of Stop the Mall filed a lawsuit against the city of Maumee in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in an attempt to block construction of the mall. The lawsuit contends that the permit for the shopping center of integrated design is unconstitutionally vague.

Council approved the permit in June, but attached more than two dozen conditions that must be met by the developer.

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