A group of Medina County residents are hoping to make it the first in the state to create a new county charter through a ballot initiative.
Sustainable Medina County is launching a petition campaign to create a charter that would include a community bill of rights aimed at preventing projects such as the proposed 36-inch NEXUS gas pipeline to be constructed across 20 miles in Medina County.
“I think we have a really strong group in Sustainable Medina County,” said Kathie Jones, of Sharon Township.
“We’re really hoping we can do this, and we’re getting a lot of support.”
The group needs to collect 4,900 signatures by June 24, and said they would work to build community support in the coming weeks.
At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sustainable Medina County will hold a community kick-off meeting at the Medina County Library, 210 S. Broadway St., Medina.
The event will include a discussion with attorney Terry Lodge, who will lead a discussion on the NEXUS pipeline, residents’ rights and health and safety issues.
“He’s an environmental attorney with many years of experience,” Jones said. “He’s going to provide detail about what we’re planning to do with the county charter.”
Sustainable Medina County has partnered with the Ohio Community Rights Network and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to help draft the language of the petition to create a charter. Tish O’Dell serves as a coordinator for the Ohio Community Rights Network and as the Ohio organizer for the CELDF. She said the charter proposal in Medina County is the first of its kind in the state.
“We’ve researched and, according to the state constitution, you can draft a county charter. It’s just never been done before by the people,” she said.
She said there are other communities in Ohio that are considering creating a charter and drafting a similar bill of rights and they’re looking to Medina County to see how the process works here.
O’Dell said the petition is one of the only tools local grassroots groups have to fight against proposals for the pipeline and other petroleum-industry projects, such as drilling wells.
“The pipelines come in and say you can’t stop this deal, they bully us with intimidation and lawsuits, and they can hire more attorneys than us,” she said. “But this is about the community being able to assert their rights to be protected from harm.”
O’Dell said the proposed petition would not disrupt the current government structure and would keep county elected positions in place, but it would add a citizens’ bill of rights to the county government.
“It gives us the right to protect our water and our air,” O’Dell said.
The community rights movement is growing, said Emilie Judy of Montville Township. Judy said more people are looking for ways to protect their properties from the oil and gas industry.
“We have an inalienable right to protect the places where we live, and Medina County residents are working to codify that right in our county charter,” she said.
The formal language for the petition is scheduled to be posted on the group’s website, http://sustainablemediacounty.org. The group hopes to get the initiative placed on the county ballot in November.