SOLON, Ohio – Monday (March 16) was an emotional roller coaster for Ara and Leslie Bagdasarian, co-founders of Solon Community Living.
They were prepared for the primary election Tuesday (March 17), with Issue 19 on the ballot. The issue would create a new zoning district in the city, a multifamily residential and special needs classification called R-3-C.
It would be implemented for properties at the southwest corner of Aurora Road and Portz Parkway, the site of the proposed Solon Community Living project.
“We had volunteers lined up for all the polls,” Ara Bagdasarian said. “But around 10 p.m., we had to tell everybody the election was off.”
Shortly after 10 p.m., Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration issued an emergency public health order closing the state’s polling locations due to the coronavirus outbreak. DeWine said voters should not have to choose between their health and their right to vote.
After legal battles in court during the day, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled overnight to allow the election to be postponed.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said he has directed the county boards of elections to hold the primary election on June 2. Absentee voting will be accepted until June 1.
“We’re dealing with a pandemic, so I agree that the safety of everyone is most important,” Bagdasarian said. “We just have to take it in stride.
“We’re very confident that the Solon voters are going to approve this. It’s just a little bit of a curveball that delays the process and the project and the timeline a little bit.
“This is an unprecedented situation, so we weren’t prepared for (a postponement),” he continued. “But you can’t worry about what’s out of your control.”
The R-3-C district is intended to promote development to meet the needs of people who have disabilities. Issue 19 would have to pass both citywide and in the affected Ward 6 to be approved.
Solon also had Issue 18 on the ballot. This measure would amend the zoning code to standardize permitted restaurant-type uses among each of the city’s major commercial zoning districts.
Bagdasarian said he believes the ideal solution would be to have everyone vote by mail, adding he and his wife have done so.
“June 2 is a long way off,” he said. “I think it would make a lot of sense to communicate to the voters to follow the relatively easy process to vote by mail. It allows people to do their duty and it’s totally safe.”
Bagdasarian said the delay in voting will likely put the proposed project behind a few months. If the issue had passed, he had hoped to meet with city officials to determine the next steps in the process and then start to work on gaining commitments from families interested in securing a place in this development for their children.
“The city had said they would not begin serious dialogue until voters approved the zoning,” he said. “I might ask the city if they’re willing to at least take a few steps in anticipation of it passing, but I haven’t spoken with the mayor or the law director yet.
“A few people have reached out already, saying they’re sorry about the delay and encouraging us, so that’s always good.”
Mayor Ed Kraus said the safety and well-being of residents is always the city’s top priority, so he believes the election postponement was the correct move.
“Every decision has to be based on safety concerns, even though (the delay) may inconvenience a lot of people,” he said. “If we’re telling people to have no social interaction, but then tell everyone to go to a small area for voting, that’s sort of inconsistent with the message we’ve received from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the county board of health.
“We shouldn’t have people having to make this difficult choice. Everything has to be consistent.”