Circulate a few rumors and people come out of the woodwork, and during last Wednesday (March 19) evening’s Sunbury Village Council meeting they came out ready to do battle; but like Don Quixote and his trustful servant Sancho Panza they found out they were jousting with windmills — there was no real issue they could do battle with when they got there.
The issue was an annexation request filed by three Berkshire Township property owners to add 128.285 acres to the west side of the village. The property owners, Geraldine Elder Dye, Domigan Walker, LLC, and Kirk’s Creek Investments, LLC, have filed with Delaware County for an Expedited Type II Annexation.
Rumors had circulated that Sunbury Council members would discuss annexing the property during last Wednesday’s Council meeting; but the only item on the agenda was a statutory resolution required by Ohio Revised Code, Resolution 2014-05, formally declaring Village services available if the Delaware County Commissioners approve their end of the annexation request.
Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield read a written statement immediately preceding Council’s visitor’s section noting that the resolution on the table did not approve an annexation, that Council members were not discussing the merits of annexing the property, nor were they in a position to vote on an annexation. (See Hatfield’s complete written statement.)
Residents in chambers then each had their allotted three minutes of podium time. Concerns included: Who would pay for sewer services through the annexed land? What is the purpose of the annexation request? Who are the investors paying the property owners for their land? Why were adjacent property owners not notified about the services resolution on council’s agenda? Do Council members anticipate additional annexation requests west of the village?
Sunbury Village Solicitor David Brehm explained to the visitors that annexation petition statutes require the Village to pass a services resolution stating what services can be provided by the Village.
“If the annexation petition meets the statutes and is approved by the Delaware County Commissioners it comes back to us,” Brehm said. “This was only filed two weeks ago. Within 20 days of filing a petition to be annexed into the Village a services resolution has to be approved by us. After that it goes back to the Commissioners and they will approve or not approve the annexation request.”
Brehm said if the County Commissioners approve the annexation request it is returned to the Village where it sits for 60 days, and only then is it placed on a Village Council agenda so Council members could discuss the petition’s merits.
“People usually annex because they want services not available to them where they are,” Brehm said. “The petitioners have looked at their property’s opportunities and want to be part of this village. If the annexation is approved nothing can happen until a development plan has been approved by the Zoning Commission.”
Delaware Attorney Michael Shade, who practices in the areas of real estate, planning and land use, represented the landowners during last Wednesday’s Council meeting. Shade said adjacent landowners were notified prior to the first County Commissioner’s hearing about the annexation petition, but there was no statutory notification requirement for a services resolution because the merits of the annexation were not being discussed.
“It’s an Expedited Type II Annexation, that means anyone living on the property to be annexed will be both in Sunbury and in Berkshire Township,” Shade said. “An Expedited Type II Annexation cannot exceed 500 acres at any one time, it must meet the 5 percent rule of contiguous border, it cannot not create islands.
“The County Commissioners do this almost as a consent agenda, you’re the body that will deal with the multiple issues,” Shade told council members. “We understand the resident’s concerns, but none of this will happen very quickly. What my clients are doing — they want to be part of your community.”
Shade said there are many reasons why property owners petition to be annexed by a municipality, including the availability of police services and sanitary sewers and wastewater treatment facilities.
“When it comes to sewers, you’re the only game in town,” Shade said. “The county has no sewer in this area and has no plans to put one in. Everybody looks at annexation differently, but it’s not an issue we will deal with tonight. This is just a matter of services.”
Before Council members unanimously approved Resolution 2014-05 Brehm said the Village did not have an option, Council members were required by Ohio Revised Code Section 709.023(C) to approve a services resolution within 20 days of the annexation petition.
“We have to suspend the rules, declare an emergency, and approve this resolution tonight,” Brehm said. “That’s statutory.”