XENIA — The Greene County Board of Commissioners denied the proposed annexation of a small part of Xenia Township to the City of Xenia during a hearing Nov. 2.
The city was hoping to annex all 650 acres of Central State University from the township. The first phase of the annexation, which the commissioners denied Thursday, was for 45.637 acres — including part of the Ohio to Erie Bike Trail and some state-owned property.
Leading up to the decision, the commissioners said, they reviewed documentation from both sides including the city’s petition, the township’s objection, legal responses as well as various letters.
Board members considered seven criteria to make their decision: petition was properly filed, all owners signed, annexation territory does not exceed 500 acres, 5 percent of the perimeter of the annexation territory shares a contiguous and continuous boundary with the city, no islands of unincorporated territory are surrounded by annexed territory, city has agreed to provide services, and city has agreed to assume any road maintenance problem.
“I don’t think those seven points have been achieved,” Commissioner Tom Koogler said, naming road maintenance as one main issue of the petition. He also referred to arguments that the city would no longer be a “unified body” and that instead the annexed portions would create a “satellite city.”
Commissioner Alan Anderson agreed that the seven points were not met.
“I think some of the folks here addressed issues beyond the seven points. I understand that and certainly subject to us listening to it but it is still the seven points in the statute — that’s what we have to focus our attention on,” he said.
Representing the city, law director Donnette Fisher argued during the hearing that the conditions had been met — including the point that 5.31 percent of the territory was contiguous, thus exceeding the requirements.
“It’s only logical the city wants land owned by the city to be in the city,” she said.
Wanda Carter, an attorney representing the township, argued that the area was not contiguous, referring to its shape on a map as a “balloon on a string” or a “flag on a pole.”
“This is not a game — this is the township standing up for what’s best for the township residents, what’s best for the community, and what’s lawful,” she said. “This is unlawful.”
The street maintenance issue was brought up several times throughout the hearing — referring to responsibilities for snow and ice removal as well as response to traffic accidents.
“Who responds?” County Engineer Bob Geyer said. “That is an issue. There needs to be a written agreement between the township, the county, the city, as to who takes care of what — when, how, and who gets billed if someone else takes care of it.”
The commissioners opened the hearing up for public comment, in which several Wilberforce residents urged that the petition be denied. At the end of the meeting, Township Administrator Alan Stock was pleased with the decision.
“I am very thankful that the commissioners looked at documents from both sides. These commissioners didn’t just show up. They studied, they researched … I am very very thankful that they were thorough,” Stock said. “I think the real issue is where do we go from here? … What direction are we going together because we are all unique, we all provide services that interlock.”
City Manager Bret Merriman said he’d look to city council before deciding what to do next.
“We’re disappointed that the commission failed to understand the legal arguments set forth in the statutes. We respect their decision,” he said. “But this is a process. These types of cases are challenged all the time. So we’ll talk with city leadership, the city council, and determine a way forward.”
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498.