Staff Writer

KINGSVILLE -- A zoning referendum in bucolic Kingsville Township has spawned lawsuits that are keeping area courts busy, according to records.

Voters will determine the fate of the referendum in today's primary election, but lawsuits the issue have spawned could stretch long after the ballots have been counted.

The referendum asks township residents whether they want to reject amendments made to the township's zoning text last December and give residents a vote on the matter. The issue was sparked by residents who believe the amendments will open the door to industries that could pose health risks to people and the environment.

The group circulated petitions earlier this year to put the initiative on today's ballot.

Since then, two separate lawsuits have been filed in county courts directly related to the zoning issue. The first was brought by Charles Page, a former Kingsville township trustee who did not seek re-election last year. Page alleged petitions circulated by the residents were faulty and misleading and wanted the Ashtabula County Board of Elections to yank the referendum off the township ballot. Page lost that case but is now taking the matter to the 11th District Court of Appeals, according to court documents.

Another case pits one Kingsville resident against another. Thomas Nelson, owner of Nelson Sand and Gravel Inc., has filed a complaint in Common Pleas Court alleging he and his business have been maligned during discussions of township zoning matters, according to documents.

The defendant is Thomas Burris of Fox Road, one of the organizers of the referendum movement. Nelson alleges Burris has made disparaging comments about Nelson and the role his property may play in the zoning matter, hurting his reputation and that of his business, according to documents. Nelson is seeking $25,000 in damages, as well as court costs and attorney fees.

Christopher Altier of Ashtabula, Nelson's attorney, could not be reached immediately for comment Monday afternoon.

Burris is represented by the Ashtabula law firm of Warren and Young, whose attorneys could not be reached immediately for comment Monday afternoon, either.

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