Delaware News

Sunbury considers schools as annexation decision nears

At June 18 meeting, village could choose to annex 128 acres for development

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Sunbury Village Council will decide this month whether to annex more than 100 acres into the village.

Big Walnut Local School District officials asked council at its meeting Wednesday, June 4, to consider what the annexation could mean for the district.

Superintendent Steve Mazzi said developers will want to move quickly, and that development will affect the schools in various ways, particularly with growth and taxes.

"As superintendent of the Big Walnut School District, I have to make sure we are good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars," Mazzi said. "I am also in charge, to the extent possible, that when development comes to the area ... whether it be commercial or residential, the schools not only need to be in the forefront of thought with council and developers, but also, to the extent permitted by law, to be at the table for any and all negotiations."

In March, property owners Geraldine Eder Dye, Domigan Walker LLC and Kirk's Creek Investment LLC filed a petition that requested their combined 128 acres become part of the village of Sunbury.

The land is east of South Galena Road, west of Domigan Road and northwest of Cheshire Road and is part of Berkshire Township.

The plot could become part of the proposed mixed-use NorthGate Centre, which would feature an outlet mall, hotels and dozens of athletic fields.

Shortly after the landowners filed the annexation petition, council passed a mandatory resolution outlining potential services, such as sewer, police, zoning, and street and road maintenance, that would be available to the area if the land became part of the village.

By statutory procedure outlined in the Ohio Revised Code, council had to wait 60 days before taking any action.

The Berkshire Township board of trustees filed a rejection of the annexation petition with the Delaware County board of commissioners at the end of March, stating the petition did not outline the municipality responsibilities on Domigan Road. County commissioners reviewed the original petition and said it met the necessary requirements for annexation. The rejection was not upheld.

At council's next meeting June 18, members will decide if the village will expand.

"Sunbury is obviously concerned about growth and having controlled growth, and Sunbury having the ability to expand and grow in a way that is good for our community," Mayor Tommy Hatfield said. "We obviously don't go out and pursue annexation, but this has come to us."

Hatfield and council members shared similar concerns as to what the annexation will mean, not only for the village's infrastructure, but also its impact on the schools.

The expansion likely will mean more commercial and residential development, which could translate to larger tax benefits for the school district.

For example, the Sunbury Meadows development has a community authority in place by which every new house built pays an additional property tax to the school district for capital improvement. Village leaders said they hope to explore and apply similar ideas to potential development on any annexed land.

"Every time we talk to a developer, we're talking to them about that new community authority and we're talking to them about what they can do to involve the school," Hatfield said. "We understand that for our community, we continue to be successful and vibrant and a place to people want to be."

Hatfield also said he hopes council and school district leaders can continue their partnership and explore creative ways to help the district's finances with new development.

Mazzi said the school district supports growth and expanding, but wants it to be controlled.

"As development occurs, so will the growth of our schools," Mazzi said. "I must stress that the schools need to be kept whole in the sense of all negotiations that contain tax incentives.

"We are in support of control, systematic growth, which should involve keeping the district whole in regard to containing costs and help relieve the burden of our local property owners."

Hatfield said council considers the schools in all of its discussions about annexing, including meetings with Big Walnut district officials, Berkshire Township leaders, Delaware city officials and developers.

"Sunbury has been a good partner and will continue to be a good partner," Hatfield said.

Sunbury Village Council's next meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. June 18 at Town Hall, 9 E. Granville St.

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