During the Columbia Township Board of Trustees meeting Monday night, Trustee Mike Musto took time after department reports to clarify the referendum on today’s ballot.
Issue 11 is a referendum by petition to change the zoning at 23295 Royalton Road back to residential. The property, home to an obsolete Nazarene Church, was rezoned to be a highway business district, per the township’s master plan. The rezoning went through the township’s zoning commission and board, with a public hearing for each, and was passed without incident.
“I want to set some things straight that have been said over the past three or four weeks,” Musto explained. “This zoning change went to the board of zoning, and then the trustees and to the county.”
Musto said the rezoning had two public hearings, with little public comment other than a few questions. It would have allowed Tractor Supply Company to build on that lot, which would have catered to farmers in the area. But once the referendum came up, TSC moved to another property in the township. The rezoning also is part of the comprehensive plan, which was approved by the residents.
“Our comprehensive plan has (state) Route 82 as highway business … this wasn’t something that we dreamt up out of the blue, this was something that was a plan that has been in place (since 2010).”
TSC would not have been the only business on Route 82, as there is a golf course across the street. And according to Musto, the owner of the golf course is who brought the petition for the referendum. And Musto said he thinks there was a conflict of interest when the petition was presented to the Board of Elections, as the attorney, Gerald Phillips, represented the petition while working for the township.
“In my opinion — and it’s my opinion, not the board’s — Gerald Phillips worked for us at the time, still actually does, he’s employed by Columbia Township, he has a conflict of interest, as far as I’m concerned,” Musto said. “He actually represented to bring a lawsuit against Columbia Township while he was representing us.”
That conflict of interest is yet to be determined, as Phillips denies it, according to Musto.
“I’m not telling you to vote for it or against it, but I think it’s important that you know all the facts,” Musto said. “And that’s the facts as I know them.”