by Cheryl Splain, reporter
MOUNT VERNON — The exposure to potential legal action was a deciding factor in city council members approving annexation of 84.626 acres on the east side of the city. In a 5 to 2 vote, council adopted legislation approving the Expedited Type 2 annexation request initiated by Dr. Rodney Beckett. The land is situated behind the health department and New Hope school and fronts on Upper Gilchrist Road and U.S. 36.

Chip McConville, city law director, told council members the law governing Expedited Type 2 annexations limits what council can do. He said the only objection allowed is if the petition does not meet legal requirements, which he verified it does; council cannot object based on council’s dislike of the annexation. If council does not pass an ordinance to approve annexation, under state statute it is still deemed consent. Council is obligated to pass within 20 days legislation that states what services the city will provide to the parcel; Section 2 of the ordinance lists those services as police and fire protection, emergency medical services, and potable water and wastewater service.

Councilman Mike Hillier questioned whether the city had to provide all five services or if it could just provide water and wastewater service. He said his concern with providing police and fire service is that the city only has the minimum three police officers required for each shift, and the fire department is already handling an increasing amount of fire/EMS runs. As part of his opposition to annexation, Hillier cited traffic issues on Upper Gilchrist and Coshocton roads that he said will only worsen if the parcel is annexed.

Coshocton Road resident Cathy Youtkus, whose 36 acres includes woodlands, walking paths and a wildlife environment, told council she is concerned about noise and light pollution, traffic complications and trespassers. “What barriers are realistic and offered? How will encroachment be enforced?” she asked, adding that she recognizes the challenges and problems associated with change.

In response, Councilwoman Nancy Vail said development will impact the area whether it is in the city or in the township. “We need to think how it will affect the area outside the commonality of the city and the township,” she said. Regarding zoning, Vail said, “If it’s part of the city, we can have a say; if not, the township will zone it however it wishes.”

Councilman John Francis pointed out that the agreement requires the developer to erect a buffer zone in the event the zoning of the annexed parcel is incompatible with the zoning of adjacent township parcels.

Responding to Councilman Sam Barone’s question as to council’s options if it is asked to change the current agriculture zoning to something else, McConville said, “Zoning is at the discretion of Municipal Planning [Commission].” “That solidifies my support of this annexation, knowing municipal planning will control the zoning,” said Barone, adding that the city has the possibility of enhancing revenue and that he does not want to discourage people from moving to the city.

Councilwoman Susan Kahrl said she is frustrated with the limited time frame to research, evaluate and consider the annexation. “If our hands are tied, it seems like it’s just a token vote,” she said. Kahrl said she had several issues she would like answers to before having to vote:
*What did the engineer the Becketts met with say is the most productive use of the land?
*Is there a cost analysis of the services to be provided?
*Will the income tax received by the city offset the cost of providing services?
*Where will the stormwater go? If there is commercial development, that means asphalt; will the developer accommodate stormwater runoff?

Safety-service Director Dave Glass assured Kahrl that there are stormwater regulations in place to handle that issue.

Debra McIlvoy, Upper Gilchrist Road, told council members to consider that they will be making a decision on a subject they have had less than a week but that will have a long-term impact. She cited four issues of concern: overstretched city services, nothing in writing that states what type of development will occur, 85 acres of productive farmland will never again be able to produce food and the impact on Monroe Township fire and EMS services.

Debbie Beckett said the plan is to create “something lovely, something to attract people, a nice place to live.” Ten to 12 homes are planned initially; if successful, more may be built. She said there will be no storage units, no car dealerships, no trailer parks and no Walmart or other box store. “None of those things that will detract from the beauty of the area,” she said, adding that it will be a place where kids can ride bikes and walk the dog.

Under the annexation agreement, Monroe Township retains property tax revenue; the city will derive revenue from income and commercial taxes, and water and wastewater fees. Residents will vote on both city and township issues.
In Monday’s meeting, council members questioned whether residents could at some point vote to leave the township so as not to be subject to city and township taxation. McConville reported that under an Expedited Type 2 annexation, unless there is an agreement between the city and the township, residents will always be part of the township.

He also said that when a Type 2 annexation occurs, the inside millage gets recalculated; in this case, it will change from 3.2 mills to 2.7 mills as it did for the Colonial Woods subdivision. McConville said the city will get some property tax revenue once the inside millage is recalculated.

Council approved 50 minutes of discussion before voting to suspend the rules and take the ordinance to its third reading and a vote. Hillier and Councilman John Fair cast the dissenting votes.

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