Huron Co. may decide Gellevue annex request

No talks in near future between Lyme Township and city over U.S. 20 land NORWALK It's now in the Huron County Commissi
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

No talks in near future between Lyme Township and city over U.S. 20 land

NORWALK

It's now in the Huron County Commissioners' hands.

Unless Bellevue and Lyme Township can come to an agreement soon -- they have 30 days or less to make a compact -- the commissioners will decide whether to allow Bellevue to annex about 401 acres of the township.

As things stand, it appears unlikely an annexation agreement will be reached before the March 10 deadline. Lyme Township Trustees' Chairman Roger Hunker said Thursday no meetings are planned between the two entities, and he did not sound optimistic about a compromise.

"We feel our proposal spells things out a little more and not nearly as vague," Hunker said. "We had a section in there having to do with zoning and planning, and we proposed a planning board (to oversee) any area that is annexed by the city under a cooperative agreement. That is to protect the current township residents to ensure they have a voice to make sure that whatever development does come is suitable for the area."

Hunker said Bellevue's annexation proposal allows township residents practically no input when it comes to economic projects on the annexed land.

"They proposed to send us a letter to our fiscal officer, and that we would be able to go to an open public forum," he said. "We would have no voice."

The annexation issue arose when more than a dozen Lyme Township property owners signed a petition asking to be incorporated into Bellevue.

Among them is Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1238, whose members say their wastewater needs are not being met by their current provider.

Negotiations between Lyme Township trustees and Bellevue city administrators broke down last month after Bellevue submitted an annexation agreement that did not contain many of the important elements of a previous economic development agreement, Hunker said.

The proposed agreement does not account for annexation issues down the road, Hunker contends. It creates no process; it simply gives Bellevue what it wants, how it wants it, with no compromise, Hunker said.

"The area is also excessively large. There is over 200 acres south of the railroad," he said. "No meeting that we've been a part of has anybody addressed any potential development for those acres. It'll sit there and become no-man's land, and we can't do anything with it or service it."

But that characterization of Bellevue's proposal differs from the one presented by David Wallingford, Bellevue law director.

The city's proposal and the township's proposal are not all that different, save for a few "minor" details, Wallingford said.

The proposal made by Lyme Township created additional hoops for developers to go through to set up shop in the area, he said.

"They are proposing that there be a separate commission that will be joint between the city planning commission and Lyme Township that a potential developer would have to go through," he said, adding that such a group would be redundant.

The idea of creating an annexation agreement different from those Bellevue already has with three surrounding townships does not sit well with the city. Wallingford said the city is trying to exact some consistency in the procedural dealings of all the surrounding townships.

"If we did this (joint-cooperation) group with the other three townships, then we'd really have a lot of levels for the city to be going through. Maybe to Lyme it's one extra thing, but to us it would be four extra things," he said.

One major point of contention is the legal legitimacy of Northern Ohio Rural Water's claim on the water service in the area. A March 31, 1989, ruling of a three-judge panel in the Common Pleas Court approved formation of a rural water district that eventually became NORW.

But Wallingford said his examination of the legal document suggests Lyme Township was not included in the original incorporation.

"I am very aware of that case. I've been through every page of it. It doesn't say anything about Lyme Township," Wallingford said. "There would be another proceedings to bring in Lyme Township."

He claims no one has produced legal documentation that such a necessary action occurred.

"Our position is we want to make sure the parties out there have sufficient water, whether through NORW or through us, and it would also be sufficient to cover commercial uses and fire suppression," he said.

Hunker said he expects negotiations will continue even if the commission grants the petitioners' request for annexation. A process needs to be established, he said, because this issue will arise again.