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Court News Ohio

Cincinnati Zoning Hearings Must Have Transcribable Record, First District Rules

The Cincinnati Municipal Code requires the city’s zoning hearing examiner to prepare a transcribable record of its public hearings, the First District Court of Appeals ruled this week.

The 3-0 decision in Hyde Park Neighborhood Council, Inc. v. Cincinnati was authored by Judge Sylvia Sieve Hendon and reversed a ruling by the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas.

The case involved a zoning dispute in which a property owner seeks to demolish a vacant single-family residence and to construct a four-story mixed-use building, a plan that requires variances from several zoning regulations.

After an initial process that resulted in modifications to the plans, the zoning hearing officer conditionally approved the project after two public hearings, one of which was not recorded.

In the face of a challenge based in part on the failure to fully record one of the hearings, the zoning board of appeals subsequently upheld the decision of the zoning hearing examiner, concluding in part that “[t]he Cincinnati Zoning Code does not require the [zoning hearing examiner] to make a record of the proceedings of his public hearings.” The decision was appealed to the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, which upheld the ruling. This finding was appealed to the First District.

In an opinion issued July 25, the First District reversed the court of common pleas and remanded the case for further proceedings.

“Standing alone, Cincinnati Municipal Code 113-1 is ambiguous as to the extent of the record that a hearing examiner must prepare,” Judge Hendon wrote.  “However, given the critical role of a detailed record to the administrative process, we believe that the Cincinnati City Council, in enacting this provision, intended the city’s hearing examiners to prepare records from which a transcript of the testimony heard and evidence presented could be created.”

The opinion was joined by Judges Lee H. Hildebrandt, Jr. and Penelope R. Cunningham.

Hyde Park Neighborhood Council, Inc. v. Cincinnati, 2012-Ohio-3331
Civil Appeal From: Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas
Judgment Appealed From Is: Reversed and Cause Remanded
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: July 25, 2012