A Gahanna developer accused of beginning construction of warehouses in western Licking County’s Jersey Township without proper permits is scheduled for a court hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 13.

The parcels outlined in yellow are owned by Jersey 1820 and Jersey Warehouse, where site work has begun to build up to five warehouses. Credit: Licking County Auditor's website

The Licking County Planning Commission filed a lawsuit in October after it said LeVeck Commercial Construction & Development ignored orders to stop work at a 71-acre site at the corner of Worthington Road and Putnam Road, just east of Mink Road and just south of Rt. 161.

Earthmovers and other heavy equipment parked behind a LeVeck Commercial Construction & Development sign on the site were idle Tuesday afternoon, although large mounds of dirt and some deep trenches visible from Putnam Road bore evidence of recent excavation there.

A hearing on a request to order a temporary restraining order and a temporary or permanent injunction against any more work on the site is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday in Licking County Common Pleas Court.

Planning Commission Director Chris Harkness said in the county’s complaint that on or about Oct. 9, construction work began on the land owned by Jersey 1820, Ltd. and Jersey Warehouse, and that the developer had not received the proper permits to clear the land and move soil there.

“The action of Jersey 1820 and its said construction efforts are in violation of a number of applicable regulations policed and enforced by the Licking County Planning Commission,” says the county’s lawsuit. “The said construction efforts were initiated, and continue, prior to the full review and approval of a required construction plan and required Licking County Soil Erosion and Stormwater Permit, all in violation of applicable standards and regulations.”

Kristy Hawthorne, program administrator for the Licking County Soil and Water Conservation District, said her office is monitoring about 60 construction sites in the county, and “about 25 percent of them are out of compliance.”

The overarching goal of her agency in such cases is to make sure developers have permits and are taking the necessary steps to protect the environment.

“We are fierce defenders of our natural resources,” Hawthorne said, adding that developers “can’t just come in here and do what you want, and you’re not going to come in here and walk over us.”

Earthmovers and other heavy equipment were idle on the site of proposed warehouses on Tuesday afternoon. Credit: Alan Miller

She said Jersey 1820 and Jersey Warehouse have not gone through the process to get approval for a stormwater-runoff plan.

The county’s lawsuit against the companies says the planning commission issued the stop-work order on Oct. 9, and that it contacted Richard LeVeck, a principal of Jersey 1820, and discussed the potential to resolve the matter. County officials said in the complaint that they also spoke with an attorney for Jersey 1820, but the company “failed and refused to terminate its said construction efforts.”

In an answer to the complaint, filed on Nov. 22 by New Albany attorney Christopher T. O’Shaughnessy, the property owners deny the accusations against them and ask the court to deny a restraining order and permanent injunction and to dismiss the complaint.

The Advocate reported in February that LeVeck Commercial Construction & Development received Jersey Township zoning approval to build five warehouses with a total of 1 million square feet under roof.

The stop-work order issued to the property owners in October says the developer failed to obtain required government permits, failed to submit plans and an associated stormwater report for review and approval by the planning commission, failed to establish sediment and erosion control measures, and failed to establish stormwater, sediment and/or water quality basins.

The county argued in its complaint that construction on the site “have caused, continue to cause and, if left unrestrained, will continue to result in irreparable loss or damage.”

Alan Miller writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is sponsored in part by the Mellon foundation and donations from readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.