Lucas County commissioners have asked for legal briefs before issuing a decision on the city of Sylvania’s request to annex a residential portion of Sylvania Township.
The request for written arguments came after procedural challenges to the city’s petition for annexation and testimony from township officials and residents opposing the forced action.
Richard Malone, an attorney representing the township, argued to commissioners that the city did not present enough valid signatures for the properties in the targeted Country Walk subdivision.
He noted that of five properties which are held in trust there were signatures but for two of them there was no document showing that the signatures were of people authorized to sign. He raised issues with others which cumulatively resulted in the city having only 15 valid signatures for the 31 properties, less than the 50 percent required on petitions for annexation.
Mr. Malone also noted that the hearing was beyond the 90-day requirement for a hearing, because it had earlier been continued after it was learned the agent for the petitioners had failed to publish a public notice.
The city of Sylvania has insisted that property owners sign a petition for annexation because they agreed to when they signed up for water service or such an agreement was in title work for the property.
Mr. Malone also noted that one of the requirements for approving an annexation is that benefits must outweigh detriments which would occur for property owners and the surrounding area.
Residents who oppose annexation generally complain that they will be subject to a municipal income tax, but will see no improvement in government service.
Oliver Turner, administrator of Sylvania Township, told commissioners that, “township residents have been deliberate in choosing a home community,” for reasons including schools, recreation and the simplicity of township government.
He said, “forced annexation erodes the deliberate choices as well as the common good of the area and community.”
The annexation of these properties, he said, will cost the road and bridge fund $8,000 and $26,000 in funding for police. He added that the city has taken recent action to annex 70 more parcels with immediate plans for 400 more. Mr. Turner said commissioners had received affidavits from township residents stating they would not choose to be annexed but for “a looming threat that water service would be discontinued,” if they didn’t sign the annexation petition.
Joe Verkennes, a township resident near the area targeted for forced annexation, called the city’s action a land-grab and a money-grab.
He and other residents who spoke at the meeting voiced complete satisfaction with the township’s services and that the income tax not only takes money, but because of that reduces the value of homes taken into the city.
Mr. Verkennes has taken to Facebook to urge residents to contact Lucas County Commissioners to voice their opposition to the city’s forced annexation policy.
Other residents, presidents of homeowners’ associations, also voiced their opposition and the opposition of members of their associations to the forced annexation.
John Crandall, chairman of the trustees, echoed Mr. Turner’s comments noting that the city and township until now have been able to work together on such issues as establishing the senior center, operating the recreational districts and on economic development. He said he is saddened and disappointed in the city.
Both Mr. Crandall and Mr. Turner said they hope to continue to work on a cooperative basis with the city.
As the meeting was about to end, Mr. Malone told commissioners that they should decide the issue on the preponderance of the evidence presented in the testimony and noted that no one from the Sylvania city administration nor any resident had spoken in support of the annexation petition.
Written by: Mike Jones, Public Information Officer
Posted: November 26, 2019
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