Annexation request fills council chambers:
Ordinance to get second reading July 9
The two requests Sunbury received for properties to be annexed into the Village has been a proverbial wake-up call for members of the Big Walnut area community, telling them that commercial growth west of the Village is not only on the doorstep, that growth has its toe in the door big time.
The two annexation requests, an Expedited Type II Annexation for 128.285 acres west of Sunbury into the village, and a second Expedited Type II Annexation to bring another 183.912 acres immediately adjacent to Dominion Homes Sunbury Meadows Subdivision into Sunbury — were subsequently approved by the Delaware County Commissioners.
As required by Ohio Revised Code, following commissioner approval the annexation requests returned to the Village where they had to sit for 60 days before the issues could be placed on a Council agenda and the merits of annexation could be discussed.
That 60 days was up for the first annexation request, known as the Dye, Walker, Kirk’s Creek Investment Annexation Request, before last Wednesday’s (June 18) Sunbury Village Council meeting, and two pieces of legislation were on Council’s agenda related to the annexation. Ordinance 2014-11 would approve the execution of an annexation agreement between the Village and the parties requesting the annexation (Geraldine Eder Dye, Domigan Walker LLC, and Northgate Center LLC); Ordinance 2014-12 would accept the petition for annexation of the Berkshire Township property owned by Dye, Walker, and Kirk’s Creek Investment.
Both ordinances contain emergency language, allowing Council members to suspend the rules during their first readings, approve the emergencies, and pass the ordinances without the statutory 30-day waiting periods that would allow for a public referendum.
Last Wednesday (June 18), Council Chambers was full to overflowing with area residents concerned about the emergency language in both ordinances and the potential for an up or down vote during that evening’s first readings.
Concerns expressed during the meeting’s visitors section included increased taxes due to the need for water, sewer and emergency services in the annexation request areas. One resident said annexation would “… be stretching departments where they’re already stretched.”
Another resident said Sunbury is a nice, quiet, rural community, and she had concerns about the impact of rapid development on the ecosystem.
“Is this going to create more jobs?” she asked. “Are they going to be a low income, minimum wage? Then what’s the point? We don’t want our taxes to go up,” she added. “We would love to see this on the ballot and meet with the developers.”
Concerns were also expressed about traffic congestion, the impact on schools, a new Sunbury Parkway linking a proposed I-71 Interchange to Sunbury Industrial Park; and most folks who spoke were concerned about the ordinance’s emergency language and asked for additional time to understand the developer’s plans.
Several residents said they accept that commercial growth around the I-71 Interchange is inevitable.
Martin Forman of Forman Realtors said he was speaking as a Big Walnut area resident.
“Delaware County is the fastest-growing county in Ohio,” Forman said. “Growth is here, development is here, and Sunbury is going to grow North and West. What I’m asking the Village of Sunbury to do is be proactive.”
Marianne Williamson, who owns Hidden Creek Farm on South Galena Road, said she is in the midst of the proposed development area.
“We’re not going to be able to maintain our farm because of the development, but I know we can’t stop it,” Williamson said. “We know this is coming and would like to see it done the right way so it doesn’t destroy our hometown. We understand this is a very fast-growing region. There was open land facing a freeway. We should have seen this coming. I just want to see it developed in such a way it doesn’t destroy our hometown atmosphere.”
Another resident said he was not pleased with the lack of control that Berkshire Township trustees displayed during the Simon-Tanger Outlet Mall approval process.
“It’s important that Sunbury annexes this property to control its development,” he said. “Berkshire Township failed to create a unified plan of development for the outlet mall; Berkshire Township never once tried to get impact fees from developers. I don’t think Berkshire can create a police department in time to deal with crime. I’d like to see a master plan when everyone’s needs are met. I’d like to see Sunbury get control, otherwise the design will cause more problems than it fixes.”
Delaware Attorney Michael Shade, who represents landowners requesting the annexation, said private citizens have asked to come into the community.
“It’s a right we all have, to choose our government,” Shade said. “The land is contiguous to the Village; they want their ground brought into the community. Annexation is only the first step; it doesn’t eliminate any responsibility of your body or your zoning on how it’s developed. It’s a right of property owners to choose in their best interest, and you have services they cannot get from any other government.”
A representative of North Gate Centre Development LLC said developers are aware of concerns about costs to Village residents.
“Those costs would not be passed on to taxpayers,” he said. “That’s the purpose of the development agreement — we will pay our own way solving infrastructure problems.”
Council member Dave Miller said everyone knows that change is coming; that population estimates indicate that by 2030 Berkshire Township will be home to 17,000 people.
“Our area is going to change, this is just a small part of that change tonight,” Miller said. “This annexation is vital to the future of Sunbury. It’s imperative we deal with traffic around I-71. We understand that we still have a lot of work to do, but it has to be done properly at the expense of the developers.”
Council member Len Weatherby told everyone in the audience — Sunbury and Berkshire residents — that when they speak, members of Sunbury Village Council listen.
“We have done a good job of controlling growth,” Weatherby said. “I can assure you that we’ll hold every developer’s feet to the fire. They’re going to build and then leave. We live here, we have to live with it. If we sit back and watch its, that’s what will happen. We have to control it.”
Sunbury Village Solicitor David Brehm explained the emergency language component of the annexation legislation, and the impact of the Simon-Tanger outlet mall’s impact on further growth at the I-71 Interchange.
“The outlet mall is coming, and more growth is coming,” Brehm said. “This development needs to be driven by local government. Whether Sunbury is part of this or not, the growth will be there. Emergency language says we made our decision to go forward to engage in, and be a partner in, this development. If we do nothing, in two years this will be in Columbus. At their meetings you may get your three minutes, but will they care?”
Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield agreed that annexation would allow the Village of Sunbury to engage with developers and exhibit local control over their projects.
“Sunbury is willing to work for the best interests of all residents of the area, and I can assure you one thing I don’t like is more taxes,” Hatfield said. “What we get paid to do is to make the best decisions for this community. This development is going to happen. We want to see a proper infrastructure in place at the beginning, not 10 years late. We’re working very diligently for the developers that build here and the people that shop here to pay for the services they need.”
Council members did not suspend the rules or act on emergency language in Ordinance 2014-11 and Ordinance 2014-12. Both ordinances will have second readings at the next Sunbury Village Council meeting.
To accommodate the Independence Day holiday the Wednesday, July 2 meeting was moved to Wednesday, July 9; and the July 16 meeting was moved to July 23.
One final note: The statutory 60-day waiting period for the second annexation request will have expired by the next Sunbury Village Council meeting. It’s likely that both annexation requests would be on the July 9 meeting agenda, with emergency language.
Sunbury’s website is located at < sunburyvillage.com >.
Sunbury Village Council meets the first and third Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m., third floor Council Chambers, Sunbury Town Hall. Council committees meet one hour before regularly scheduled council sessions. All Village Council and Council Committee meetings are open to the public.