Annexation deal high and dry

LYME TWP. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? That's the debate in Lyme Township,
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

LYME TWP.

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?  That’s the debate in Lyme Township, where several property owners on U.S. 20 in Lyme Township want water and sewer lines installed so they can sell their land to commercial developers.

Northern Ohio Rural Water, which has the legal right to provide water to those properties, refuses to install the water lines until major businesses buy the properties. Bellevue wants to annex the land and provide the water and sewer lines, but NORW stands in the way.

NORW representatives met Tuesday with city, township and county officials as well as a handful of frustrated property owners who no longer want the water company’s business.

“You’ve created a chicken-and-the-egg scenario,” said Bob Boehk, an attorney for Erie Materials Inc., which owns property on U.S. 20 in Lyme Township. “You won’t provide the water lines unless businesses buy property, but they won’t buy property unless the water lines are there.”

NORW representative Tom Reese said EPA regulations won’t allow his company to install the water lines U.S. 20 property owners are asking for because the water demand is not there yet.

“When you lay water lines, one of the things you’re providing is safe drinking water,” Reese said. “You have to use the water that’s in those lines. If it lays dormant it becomes bad, and you can’t drink it. When you size for an area, you size for what’s there. If you over-size, it becomes a problem for the people in that area.”

“(Businesses) are talking about developing big time here, which would be great,” said Monroeville resident Jessie Roeder. “Why can’t the city of Bellevue and NORW get together and work things out so it can benefit the whole area?”

Boehk said Erie Materials has already been approached by investors who want to buy the property.

“We have had a developer walk away from that property because its (water and sewer systems) are inadequate,” he said. “It will not provide suppression for a big box store or something of that magnitude, which obviously the people of northwest Ohio need.”

Bruce Kent, who is the quartermaster for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1238 on U.S. 20, says his organization isn’t interested in selling its property.

“All we want to do is exist,” he said. “We lose $5,000-6,000 a year because we don’t have adequate water or sewer services.”

Kent was one of 13 U.S. 20 property owners who filed a petition in October to annex their properties into Bellevue so the city could install water and sewer lines.

Reese said the owners can annex if they wish, but his company still has the legal right to provide water to the properties if it chooses to. He said NORW is willing to give up that right ... for a price.

“We have a master plan in place to give up that territory,” Reese said. “We have offered that to the city of Bellevue. That offer is still there.”

State Rep. Matt Barrett, D-Amherst, who attended the meeting, said state government can’t intervene in this dispute.

“The annexation is one issue, and the water rights is another issue,” Barrett said. “NORW is its own political subdivision. The state can’t make one subdivision go away in favor of another one.”

Huron County Commissioners must decide if it will allow the U.S. 20 property owners to annex their property into Bellevue.

The board will host its first public hearing Jan. 15 to allow members of the public to express  opinions about the deal.

Commissioners Mike Adelman and Gary Bauer were at the township meeting Tuesday.

“I just hope they can come to an agreement. That’d be the way I’d like to see it go,” Bauer said after the meeting. “They’ve got time. If they can get their agreement worked out between now and March it would make everybody’s lives a lot easier.”