Legal expert says courts look favorably on land owners in zoning disputes

MIAMI TWP. — A local legal expert provides a new perspective on the legal fight and $50,000 fine, involving a Miami Township events venue. The owner of the venue faced a zoning violation in 2018. Now, a judge has ordered the owner to pay the fine because he continues to host weddings.

However, the owner, Darren Powlette, thinks the Ohio Supreme Court is on his side. Legal expert, Matt Deardren said Powlette might win his legal battle because the courts historically have looked favorably on landowners in zoning disputes.

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Powlette, owner of Stoney Hill Farm and Winery, is continuing to give away weddings and book events at his venue into 2023 and 2024 despite the prospect of the cash bundle hanging over his head.

Powlette believes the Ohio Supreme Court will side with him over the local judge who in December enjoined Powlette from hosting events for a fee or else pay a $50,000 fine. Last week, the judge accused Powlette of playing games by refusing to shutter his business.

It’s a fight that has been full of legal punches since 2018, when Powlette was first hit with a zoning violation.

“So I had two choices, you know refund them and cancel their wedding, or refund them and give them a free wedding, so of course, I gave them a free wedding,” Powlette told News Center 7′s Molly Koweek on Wednesday.

John Morris, Miami Twp. board of trustees vice president, said, “we’ve been pursuing action against Mr. Powlette for many, many years, and it’s finally time that he’s punished for his actions.”

Powlette, of course, disagrees and said a previous state Supreme Court decision allows him to continue hosting.

“What this case did from the Ohio Supreme Court, is they said, hey if there’s someone that is growing grapes on their property, and selling wine on their property, there are certain things the township cannot touch and they cannot tell them what to do with their property from a zoning perspective,” said Dearden.

According to Dearden, it’s not necessarily true that the court’s going to come to the same conclusion in Powlette’s case, because they’re going to look very specifically at the facts and certainly the ongoing legal battle over the last four or five years.

Morris, the township trustee, wants locks and chains for Powlette.

“We need him to be either arrested until he agrees to stop doing it, or we need the building padlocked, so that it cannot be used for these purposes, because he’s going to continue to do it and flirt the law,” Morris said.

Dearden said, “I think what will end up happening is Mr. Powlette will end up winning this, and the reason is that courts have traditionally been very, very favorable toward land owners in land owner township disputes, particularly with zoning regulations.”

Despite all the maneuvering that has occurred, Powlette told Koweek he’ll pay the $50,000 fine if he loses on appeal.