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Judge grants injunction stopping Rocky Ridge lime dumping
Jon Stinchcomb , Reporter
Published 6:37 p.m. ET March 8, 2017 | Updated 4:44 p.m. ET March 9, 2017
PORT CLINTON - An Ottawa County judge granted a preliminary injunction against a development group that has been dumping lime waste at a former Graytown quarry, saying it violates local zoning regulations.
One day after a seven-hour hearing in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court, Judge Bruce Winters on Wednesday ordered Rocky Ridge Development LLC to stop disposing of residual lime waste in Benton Township until and unless they are in compliance with zoning rules. The spent lime was being shipped from Toledo where it is a byproduct from the city's Collins Park Water Treatment Plant.
Rocky Ridge Development purchased the former Stoneco property at 14591 W. Toussaint North in Graytown, along Ohio 590, and has been operating since 2014 under a land application management plan, or LAMP, approved by the Ohio EPA, which previously allowed them to dispose of the lime.
Ottawa County Prosecutor James VanEerten and Benton Township alleged the company’s activity violated local zoning laws.
“We’re very excited about the ruling,” VenEerten said Thursday. “The court essentially gave Benton Township the power to enforce their own zoning. We’re pretty pleased by that.”
With the case not dealing with much of a factual dispute, he said, it was more about whether the state could trump local zoning laws.
According to the county’s regional planning commission, the property was rezoned in 1988, after nearby residents at the time sought a “buffer” from the industrial work. After the 1988 zoning resolution, only a small portion of the property was permitted for heavy industrial use.
But several witnesses testified Tuesday to having seen the lime disposal taking place in the southern areas of the property, where it is not permitted. The activity also allegedly was caught in aerial photos and videos taken by a drone.
Benton Township zoning inspector Michael Reif, who lives near the property, testified that he witnessed the company digging, hauling dirt from north to south and trucking lime residue, all in those areas zoned only for agriculture.
Reif also made two criminal complaints, which are pending in Ottawa County Municipal Court, for the alleged zoning violations late last year.
Benton Township sought the injunction to stop the dumping until further hearings on the merits can be held. Rocky Ridge Development also has the option to appeal Winters' decision to the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Toledo.
In his ruling, Winters noted that the lime disposal permitted by the LAMP may still be allowed, but only within the areas of the property that are zoned for heavy industrial use.
“The Benton Township zoning regulations do not provide a blanket prohibition of the activity authorized by the LAMP and engaged in by (Rocky Ridge Development),” Winters said.
VanEerten said, however, that the existing permit only allows the company to dispose of the waste at the surface level, and because the small area zoned for heavy industrial use is primarily the quarry pit itself, the injunction halts any dumping there as well.
“(The injunction) shuts down Rocky Ridge Development operations,” said Barry Fissel, attorney for the company. “This subjects the innocent party, the City of Toledo, to having its renovations of its water treatment plant stopped in its tracks.”