Residents of Seneca County - and Tiffin, for that matter - did not quite find out whether the county trumps the city when it comes to reviewing decor and architecture of buildings in downtown Tiffin.
But a ruling from Judge Charles Wittenberg makes this much clear: The county doesn't need the blessing of Tiffin's Architectural Board of Review to raze the 1884 courthouse.
The board of commissioners in 2008 asked the architectural review board for permission to demolish the vacant courthouse. Actually, the commissioners applied for an Orwellian-sounding "certificate of appropriateness," which the review board denied.
Ultimately, the issue ended up before Wittenberg, a retired Lucas County Common Pleas judge. A decision was delayed while attempts were made to arrange an affordable plan to renovate the courthouse, but when shrinking budgets cast dout on that strategy, the commissioners pressed the judge for a ruling.
Wittenberg clarified what the ruling wasn't about.
"The issue before the Court is not whether the Seneca County Courthouse should be preserved," he wrote. "Such is a policy decision left to the judgment of the duly elected Board of Commissioners.
"Rather, at issue for the Court is whether defendant (the City of Tiffin), through enforcement of its zoning law, can prevent plaintiff (the Seneca County commissioners) from proceeding with its decision to demolish the courthouse.
"Here, the county is not attempting to impose a new, incompatible structure within the city's architecturally-regulated district. Instead, plaintiff wishes to remove a building. ..."
Left unclear is whether the architectural review board can veto plans by the commissioners to modify other county-owned buildings within the design review district.
But the decision that a building can be razed by its owner is wholly appropriate.