Worthington City Council approves permit following lawsuit threat

WORTHINGTON - A conditional use permit for Golden Horizons to expand their business was revisited and approved Monday night by the Worthington City Council following the threat of a lawsuit.

According to Councilor Alan Oberloh, the city's legal counsel believes the city would lose a lawsuit and be liable for $100,000 if the vote to turn down the permit was not overturned. And the problem, he said, came from a decision made by the Worthington Planning Commission, which granted KC Properties a variance for a smaller setback than required and reduced the number of parking spaces per resident.

Oberloh said that according to law, the people who voted on the winning side of an argument are the only ones who can bring the subject back to the council. He and Councilor Larry Janssen were the two who voted against the conditional use permit, which needed a supermajority to pass.

"Because of the action the planning commission made, we do not have any choice - we're going to get sued," Oberloh said. "Because the grounds that Larry and I gave for the reasons to deny it were superseded by an action that took place six days earlier."

Oberloh and Janssen stated they were not against the project, they were against the lack of due diligence on the company's behalf.

Councilor Chad Cummings argued that the argument the two dissenting councilors made against New Horizons was personal.

"The only due diligence that was needed is to file for the variance," Cumming stated. "You wanting them to check with the Homestead to see if they could buy more land is nothing more than you wanting them to check."

He added there was no legal requirement that New Horizons check into buying land.

Councilor Amy Ernst, who is the council representative on the planning commission, said she wanted to approve the CUP, but she was not happy with the blame Oberloh was inferring.

"I don't like how you are putting down the planning commission for making a decision that you don't agree with," she told Oberloh. "We have long discussions, long meetings. Lots of questions are asked. And to say that the planning commission didn't take everything into account and made the wrong decision - that's why we have trouble getting people on the planning commission and that's why they are asking for a stipend."

She was referring back to an earlier conversation the council had about paying planning commission members a stipend, something commission member Ben Weber told the council was not concerned about. He said he would rather see funds put toward training commission members.

Eventually, the council did revisit the vote for a conditional use permit for Golden Horizons, and the permit was approved, with only Janssen still voting against the measure.

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