Pickerington Times-Sun

Pickerington rescinds request for 195-acre annexation

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Within four days of a Fairfield County commissioners hearing on the matter set for June 17, the city of Pickerington withdrew an annexation petition in which it sought to annex more than 195 acres from Violet Township into the city.

The city filed the annexation petition March 20 seeking to annex land which would have included both the Pickerington High School North and Lakeview Junior High School campuses, if successful.

Approximately 36 acres owned by two property owners, dubbed the Smith-Sanders properties, allowed the city to commence the process.

Those Violet Township property owners sought to voluntarily annex into the city to prepare their land, located to the southeast of the Refugee and Pickerington roads intersection, for future development.

The city's stance was that the annexation would be a win-win for both the city and Violet Township because the city would bear the burden of developing what officials consider to be the next commercially viable corridor in the area to the east.

However, Violet Township officials voiced opposition to the annexation as early as Nov. 20, and prepared for litigation to block the process.

The Violet Township trustees had a special meeting scheduled for June 13 to oppose the annexation by official resolution.

"The township just needed to address the resolution of opposition at the anticipated hearing," said Benjamin King, Violet Township's director of operations.

With the news the annexation was retracted, township officials canceled the June 13 meeting and then expressed relief the matter is, for all intents and purposes, closed.

"It's the township's position that the annexation petition was not in the best interest of the township, the (Pickerington Local) School District, or the community as a whole," King said.

"We are pleased that the city chose to withdraw the petition," he said.

Pickerington City Manager Bill Vance said the annexation was retracted because of the city receiving related annexation proposals from Violet Township.

"(The) desire now is to work with our community partners to incorporate the Smith/Sanders properties," Vance said.

Prior to the city's cancellation of the annexation, the Pickerington Board of Education voted 5-0 June 9 to pass a resolution opposing the annexation, citing that about 80 percent of the territory proposed for annexation is owned by the school district.

The school board was also not pleased with the prospect of having its 330 employees on the North and Lakeview campuses subject to a 1 percent city income tax if the annexation were to occur.

In addition, the school board expressed misgivings about the city taking over road maintenance on Refugee Road.

"Basically the city would maintain Refugee Road from (state Route) 256 to Pickerington Road, and portions of Milnor Road south of Refugee," said Greg Butcher, Violet Township engineer.

"The township and the school board didn't feel that was in the best interests of their respective stakeholders," Butcher said.

City Councilman Tony Barletta voted against a resolution authorizing a city-county road maintenance agreement May 20.

"I was not happy with the original agreement, since I was concerned the costs of infrastructure were not being addressed, and would fall on the city taxpayers," Barletta said.

"The estimated costs of the road maintenance agreement cost more than the projected income tax revenue from the (Pickerington) High School North campus," he said.

Barletta said he is optimistic the city and Violet Township can now collaborate to successfully develop the area.

"By working together with the township it becomes a win-win for both governments, and the taxpayers," he said. "By working together we should be able to share more of these costs."

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