Zoning ordinance compliance is the issue, the township's lawyer says.
WARREN -- Hartford Township's zoning fight against a house where people engaged in adult parties, including sexually oriented activities, will be decided by a judge.
Magistrate Anthony Cornicelli of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court had a mediation hearing Wednesday with Hartford Township officials and the homeowner, Kay Hovis of state Route 7.
"The mediation was not successful and the case will now move forward," said Mark Finamore, township attorney.
Last July, the Hartford Township Zoning Board of Appeals denied an in-home occupation conditional-use permit for Hovis and The Country Home.
Now, an administrative appeal to Judge Andrew Logan will proceed. Over the next 90 to 120 days, lawyers for both parties will submit briefs to the judge, who will decide the matter based on these -- unless an oral argument is presented by either side.
"It isn't an issue of the type of business. This case is about compliance with our zoning ordinance," Finamore said. "We have an ordinance that says, if you live in a residential area, you have to meet certain conditions."
Hovis, 65, said she wanted a conditional use permit so that she could continue having private in-home adult parties. She and her attorney, Robert Bouffard, have told the zoning board she's been having the parties in her home since 1979.
Bouffard was not available to comment about the mediation session.
Rejected last year
A year ago, the zoning appeals board turned down Hovis' request to re-open because it said she was using more than 25 percent of her home for business, which violates the township's zoning regulations for home businesses.
The Country Home is in a residentially zoned area, and Finamore has said that Hovis has indicated she wants to use the dwelling to provide one or more rooms to have adult parties and allow people to engage in sexually oriented activities.
Hovis has said that she believed that offering weekly parties qualified her as a member of a service profession. Hovis testified she has about 15 to 20 couples at her parties.
In the township's view, customary professions in a house would include such occupations as hairdresser or tax preparer, for example. "We felt the adult party aspect did not fit the intent of customary jobs at home," Finamore said.
According to the township's zoning regulations regarding an in-home occupation, Hovis has to meet several requirements, including proof that the business provides a service, does not use more than 25 percent of the home for the business, does not involve manufacturing or sale of items, and that the traffic generated would not be greater than what normally would be expected in a residential neighborhood.