Olentangy Valley News

Orange Township parks levy headed for fall ballot

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Orange Township residents will see a 1.5-mill renewal park levy on the Nov. 5 ballot following a decision by township trustees Monday, May 6.

Trustees Rob Quigley, Lisa Knapp and Debbie Taranto approved a resolution to have the Delaware County auditor certify the millage amount for the proposed three-year levy, the first step in having the issue placed on the ballot. The filing deadline is Aug. 6.

The current three-year, 1.5-mill levy expires at the end of this year. During a meeting last month, Taranto said a renewal levy would raise about $1.54 million a year and cost homeowners about $46 annually per $100,000 of property value.

Several residents spoke in support of the levy at the May 6 meeting, although resident Jeni Watters said her vote will depend on refusal by township officials to allow an adult-themed hotel proposed for a site in northern Orange Township.

She opposes the hotel -- proposed by John Kranjec, who operates the Belamere Suites, a similar hotel in Perrysburg -- because she said it isn't the right fit for the family-oriented area. Kranjec has billed the hotel as a romantic getaway for couples.

"I'm very concerned ... Nobody is going to use the park" with that facility nearby, Watters said. "The decision on this hotel very much affects my decision on how to vote on the levy."

Earlier in the evening, an overflow crowd filled the meeting room to voice opposition to Kranjec's plan. Several residents spoke during a public participation segment.

Bob Steele, a representative of Orange Township Community Watch Inc., a group formed to fight the hotel, said, "As a community, we have a vested interest with any development because of the potential impact."

A number of opponents wore orange T-shirts reading, "Neighbors In Orange Township Do Not Want Belamere Suites In Our Community." Others held signs with the words adults only crossed out in a bull's-eye. The group is circulating a petition against Belamere Suites that Steele said would be presented to trustees at a later date.

The county prosecutor's office has provided a requested opinion from trustees that states under township zoning code, Zoning Inspector Tom Farahay must make the decision on whether to approve the permit for the hotel. Last month, Kranjec filed an application and supporting paperwork to build the hotel on a site northwest of the fire station on Gooding Boulevard and west of U.S. Route 23.

That site is zoned for planned commercial development and permits a hotel. However, residents have pointed out there is a day-care center, a pediatrics office, a community pool and other child- and family-oriented businesses near the site. Farahay has not yet made a decision. Any decision can be appealed within 20 days to the township board of zoning appeals.

 

Trustees consider utility aggregation

Trustees also decided May 6 to jump on the bandwagon of communities getting lower utility rates through suppliers that offer competitive rates.

Trustees approved a one-year service agreement with AEP Energy Inc. to supply electricity for township facilities, a move expected to save about $21,000.

Scott Belcastro of Trebel LLC brokered the deal with AEP. Trustees approved an energy management agreement with Trebel to assist the township in such matters.

Knapp asked whether electric aggregation, a process in which a utility supplier is found to serve the community at cheaper rates, is feasible for the township this year.

Belcastro said he has worked with other communities, including Sunbury, and has found lower and more-competitive rates for them.

However, utility aggregation, which is overseen by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, requires a vote by residents. If the township wants to offer aggregation to its residents, Belcastro said he would need at least two months to prepare and circulate educational materials prior to the November election.

At Knapp's request, Quigley, who is trustee chairman and liaison for public safety, provided an update on EMS billing, a way in which communities can bring in a revenue stream by charging for EMS transports.

Knapp has pushed for EMS billing, saying it could raise up to $400,000 a year in extra income for the financially strapped township fire department. Insurance companies would be billed for EMS transports; residents would not be charged.

Quigley, Taranto and township fire officials have said such a plan could bring in less money and also result in higher insurance premiums for residents.

Quigley said he is in discussions with Delaware County and other local townships and municipalities about EMS billing and added he also is looking for longer-term solutions to the fire department's financial problems.

An emergency 7.5-mill levy approved by voters in February saved the department from massive cuts and possible closure. The township has had to use general fund money and has taken out loans to keep the department afloat this year.

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