Lyme Township's loss could be Bellevue's gain if new businesses want to invest in property along U.S. 20.
Thirteen Lyme Township U.S. 20 property owners signed a petition submitted to Huron County Commissioners Tuesday to be annexed into Bellevue.
The township does not provide water and sewer lines to its predominately rural, agricultural population, and the 13 property owners say they need both.
Among them are the Bellevue-area Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1238, Erie Materials Inc. and Speedway Super America.
VFW representatives say they have to make some of their bathrooms handicap-accessible to comply with American Disabilities Act standards.
"The EPA told us that we cannot do anything with our restrooms until we get city sewers," Commander Robert Hornett said Thursday.
Hornett said the VFW rents out its hall for weddings and other social gatherings.
"We're a commercial organization, and we don't have a sewer system. That's really what it's all about," he said.
But there's more to the story than flushing toilets and running water.
The property owners seeking annexation may be setting themselves up to sell their property to the highest bidder.
Bellevue economic development director Russ Panas believes businesses will buy property on U.S. 20 if the city provides water, sewer and safety services.
A representative from Bellevue Mayor David Kile's office said city officials can't legally negotiate annexation deals, so Panas has been leading the charge.
"If the annexation happens, that's the time to talk with all the property owners about the possibility of bringing some type of commercial development into the city," Panas said. "We have to do it a step at a time."
Panas believes adding sewer and water lines could turn U.S. 20 into something like U.S. 250 in Perkins Township, bringing new businesses and millions of dollars into the local economy with Bellevue reaping most of the rewards.
The only loser in the deal would be Lyme Township, which in addition to losing control of the U.S. 20 properties, also stands to lose more than 400 acres in the annexation deal.
"It definitely will (hurt Lyme Township) because of the revenue that we receive now," township trustee Michael Nottke said Thursday. "With development, they always give tax abatements. That doesn't leave much tax revenue left."
Nottke says he's skeptical about Bellevue's ambitions, because other smaller annexation deals in the past turned out to be pipe dreams.
"They say they're going to supply them people with water and sewer," Nottke said. "It's a lot of money to put water and sewer out there."
Retired Kellogg plant worker and Bellevue Schools custodian John Beiler got 87 acres of his Hile Farm property annexed into Bellevue from Lyme Township 10-15 years ago.
"I wanted to develop the land, but the city wouldn't let me develop it," Beiler said.
"It really didn't do me much good to annex into the city."
Beiler's property went undeveloped for years, and in 2006 Beiler hired a real estate agent, who found a buyer who wanted to turn it into a senior citizen housing center.
But Bellevue zoning officials wouldn't allow Beiler to rezone his property.
In fact, Beiler said Mayor Kile personally told him at a zoning meeting that the mayor wouldn't allow Beiler to rezone his property.
"He wouldn't rezone it for anything else because he wanted it for an industrial park," Beiler said.
Beiler acknowledges his situation is different because the city may stand to gain more from the property on U.S. 20.
But he warns property owners to make sure their property is zoned properly before they annex it and to look out for their own interests, not Bellevue's.
"It all depends on the name of the people that own the property," Beiler said.
"If the right person owns the land, it will go through. That's Bellevue."
The annexation decision rests with Lyme Township trustees and the Huron County commissioners.
The commissioners will host a public hearing on the matter at 10 a.m. Jan. 15 in their office.
The public is invited to attend and share opinions.
"Right at this point I'm pretty neutral about it, because I've not heard all the comments from everybody," Commissioner President Ralph Fegley said Thursday.
"Four hundred and one acres, I find that interesting. That's a big deal."