Garden Manor sues city over rezoning for coke plant

Retirement community claims Middletown failed to follow procedure in rezoning approval for site of proposed $340M coke plant.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

MIDDLETOWN — Garden Manor Retirement Village has filed a lawsuit against the city of Middletown, claiming City Council and the planning commission failed to follow proper procedure in approving the rezoning of 157 acres that would be the site of a new $340 million coke making and heat recovery plant.
The suit filed Tuesday, May 13, in Butler County Common Pleas Court seeks to restrain the city from further action related to the site.
Officials at Garden Manor said the city violated its own ordinances and charter in four ways: the planning commission approved the rezoning without a proper application for the zoning change; the planning director's report was biased and did not contain both advantages and disadvantages of the zoning change; the use of the Bake-Martin farm, just off Ohio 4, is not compatible with the existing lawful uses on contiguous property; and City Council had no adequate basis to pass the rezoning as an emergency measure.
"Before we have to make a decision that will directly impact our 400 employees and 350 residents, we must bring light to the blatant deficiencies in this process," said Shane Craycraft, administrator of Garden Manor.
City Law Director Les Landen declined comment Wednesday and said he had not yet seen or received the lawsuit.
Garden Manor, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007, is located next to the site where Knoxville, Tenn.-based SunCoke Energy wants to build a new coke making and electric generation plant.
City Council unanimously approved, 6-0, an emergency measure on May 6 to rezone the land from low-density residential to industrial use.
A day before the rezoning vote, Garden Manor sent council members a letter threatening to move or close if the zoning change was OK'd.
"Those options are very real and they are not just inflated for the sake of discussion," Craycraft said. "We are just trying to make sure the city of Middletown does this right so that we can make a good business decision in the end."