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Published: Sunday, 6/17/2001

Stopping the sprawl

It has taken the better part of 30 years, but Ohio's legislative battle over annexation has finally culminated with passage of a reform bill that should give townships better defense against urban sprawl. Governor Taft should sign the measure.

Historically, annexation law has been stacked in favor of municipalities, sometimes leading to the kind of runaway development that manifested itself in the 1999 case of the Hoen Orchard, along congested Airport Highway. The orchard was gobbled up by the village of Holland to make way for a grocery store expected to add 6,000 more vehicles a day to the area.

Under compromises in the bill, townships will have greater say in annexation actions. It includes provisions to expedite uncontested annexations, but, in contested cases, county commissioners will be required to consider not only the best interest of the property involved but also the surrounding area within half a mile.

Cities will be required to provide services to annexed areas within specified periods and will have to reimburse townships for lost tax revenue on a declining scale over 12 years.

A similar bill on the brink of passage by the General Assembly was killed in the House Rules Committee late last year by Rep. Jo Ann Davidson, then speaker of the House. Cities - and the developers eager to push municipal borders ever wider - opposed the measure, claiming it would impede economic development.

Urban sprawl can't be entirely eliminated, but the legislation should at least serve to bring some sanity and balance to what has been a largely out-of-control annexation process.

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