Defiance playground alley back open to traffic

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DEFIANCE (13abc Action News) - A November nail-biter update: 147 votes decided a public vs. private alley debate in Defiance. Today, we caught up with school leaders as they complied with city orders.

The gate is back open at St. John Lutheran School in Defiance. Cars are now free to come through that alley. School leaders are worried about child safety and believe there was a lot of confusion on the November's ballot. The Board of Elections director told our manager that even he needed clarification on the language.

"I think the wording, from what I've been told by voters, was ambiguous, leaving some confusion there," St. John board member Kate Webb said.

City administrator Jeff Leonard says Defiance actually revamped rules to make it easier for homeowners to vacate alleys. But this time…

"Yesterday the vote on the referendum was certified... we've instructed through written correspondence that the church will have to open the right of way," Leonard said.

Leonard says the public was able to participate all along, before council approved the alley's closure. Then the November vote undid council's vote.

"Today will be the first day that the gates will be back open."

If you're not in defiance, this battle showcases the power of citizens to protest votes and create change. That comes without the school's approval, and though many felt confusion at the voting booth.

"We have sent a letter to the city of requests, in attempt to keep our kids safe," Webb said of future plans.

School leaders say they don't want to reveal too much about that new plan. That's because Dave McMaster spearheaded the fight to keep this alley open - and he's about to be sworn in as city council president.