- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2005

MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio

The Amish, whose religion dictates that they keep their distance from outsiders and modern conveniences, did not want to get political.

But they say a township’s restrictions on the size of home-based businesses prevent them from opening woodworking shops at a time when small farming is no longer profitable enough.

Such shops allow them to continue to work alongside their children — one of the tenets of the Amish lifestyle. And now they’re campaigning to eliminate the zoning laws on Nov. 8.

“There’s never been a campaign like this before amongst our people,” said Nathaniel Byler, one of three Amish men who circulated a petition to put the zoning issue on the ballot.

Geauga County has an estimated 12,000 Amish, the fourth-largest settlement in the world, and horse-drawn buggies are as common a sight on Huntsburg Township roads as Fords or Chevrolets. Amish children walk the roads, worn rough from horseshoes, waving with a shy smile at passing cars.

Two years ago, Mr. Byler’s son applied to build a cabinetmaking shop larger than the 1,000 square feet allowed under the township’s zoning code.

He was denied by the zoning inspector, then the board of zoning appeals. He tried to point out that none of his neighbors objected to the 4,000-square-foot shop he planned.

The township’s trustees told him to file a “friendly lawsuit” against them so it could be resolved in court.

“That’s not the Amish way of life,” Mr. Byler said. “There’s three words that I don’t like: court, suing, judge. It’s not scriptural to sue someone.”

However, the Amish agreed to try the court system. It took two years for Mr. Byler’s son to get his permit to build.

Township trustee Clark Adams said he’s always been supportive of the Amish. But he says the trustees have been advised by the county prosecutor that the best way for them to handle such zoning requests is through the courts.

The Amish estimate they have about 500 registered voters in the township of 3,500 residents and are asking the non-Amish to support their ballot issue.

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