After years of debate, Delaware city and county officials have finalized an agreement over sanitary sewer service rights southeast of the city.

After years of debate, Delaware city and county officials have finalized an agreement over sanitary sewer service rights southeast of the city.

The Delaware County commissioners last Monday unanimously approved an agreement with the city of Delaware, establishing who will provide sewer services in several disputed areas of the city and county.

The agreement, which Delaware City Council approved Sept. 8, resolves service issues for areas bounded on the west by Ford Road, on the south by Bunty Station Road, the Olentangy River, the southern city water service area and Peachblow Road, and on the east by the Conrail Railroad tracks from Peachblow to Baker Road.

Under the agreement, the county will provide sewer services to properties outside those boundaries. The city will provide service to properties within the boundaries, regardless of whether those properties have been annexed into the city.

"It sets forth service areas on the southeast side of the city," said Dan Bennington, Delaware city attorney. "We had an agreement on the (city's) southwest side. This just extends our area.

"We won't serve outside the area designated as the city's, and (the county) won't serve areas designated as outside the county's area."

Single-family residences in the city's designated service area which currently aren't part of the city won't be required to annex into Delaware unless ownership of the properties are transferred.

"Within the service area, we would have the right to any sewer services for any lands that would be annexed," said Brad Stanton, Delaware public utilities director, as city council was considering the agreement.

Areas outside the city's district would continue to be served by the county, even if properties there are annexed into the city.

"Even though ... the city may continue to annex into those township lands, what we hold back (for) the county is the service area for sewer," said Chad Antle, Delaware County environmental services director. "The big picture on this is that as we start extending sewer lines or putting pump stations into the ground for those areas, we're putting in large dollars, large infrastructure investments.

"The key here is we make sure ... that money, through tap fees and user fees, is coming back to the county to pay for the debt service for that infrastructure investment. The city may annex into the service (county) area, but again, the county retains the right to provide sanitary sewer service."

The agreement puts to rest a dispute over sewer service area, which arose several years ago. It comes after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency declined to resolve the issue, and effectively dismisses a matter pending before the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission.

County commissioner Jim Ward reluctantly voted in favor of the move. He considered rejecting the proposal because the city currently is considering extending its historical preservation district -- a move that could affect county plans to construct a new, $51-million courthouse facility.

"I really don't think we need to pass this until we get some cooperation on our other thing," Ward said prior to voting for the agreement.

Ward was swayed by county administrator Dave Cannon, who said a fight wasn't in the interest of the county or Berlin Township.

"Jim, we spent a lot of time with sewer issues and there's large investments in terms of putting the sewer in the ground," Cannon said. "The fact of the matter is, there probably isn't going to be anything we can do inside that sewer area because the city owns the water rights to it.

"Talking to the townships, Berlin Township specifically, they thought this may be the best thing we could do to protect their township."

Cannon noted the agreement will help ensure developments in Berlin Township comply with township and county housing density plans.

Since April 2004, the city and Berlin Township have squabbled over an annexation agreement which would stipulate how about 1,000 acres of township land could be annexed to the city.

A primary sticking point has been township officials' desire to charge the city up to $20-million for land annexed within the first five years of acceptance of the agreement, $15-million for land annexed within six to 10 years of the agreement, and $10-million for land annexed within 11 to 15 years of the agreement.

Throughout that debate, township officials sought to include the penalty to ensure future developments within a designated area couldn't exceed 1.25 units per acre by the township, or 2.5 units per acre by the city.

"We'll size the sewers based on the overall comprehensive plan for the area," Cannon said. "If we run into a situation like that, where the situation calls for sewers above what the capacity was planned for, then we've got the alternative of saying we can't provide that sewer and we could look to whoever is developing that site and request that they come up with some solution of how we would resolve that capacity issue."

Because of the elevation of boundary lines within the two sewer districts, Antle said the arrangement will allow the city and county to use gravitational sewer systems, which are more efficient than pump stations.