COLUMBUS - Kim Schappacher said she is a “pawn in a major political game.”
Like residents of Lucas and Wood counties, she has watched townships, builders, municipalities, developers, and county commissioners fight over annexation - the term for cities and villages grabbing township land into their boundaries and tax base.
Ms. Schappacher drove from her home in Warren County to the Statehouse yesterday to tell legislators what she thinks of their latest effort to resolve the “turf battle.”
“People like my husband and I own the turf you are about to legislate and restrict,” said Ms. Schappacher. A resident of Deerfield Township, she said she wants the option to have her land annexed into the city of Mason.
But her words didn't sway anyone about the biggest rewrite of annexation law in 30 years in Ohio. By a 14-1 vote, a House committee approved the bill, which has passed in the Senate.
The 99-member House won't vote on the bill unless House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson (R., Reynoldsburg) says so. And she did not put it on today's agenda.
“There are a number of things that still trouble me about the bill,” she said. Her concerns include a section of the bill enabling townships to share property tax revenue with municipalities from annexed land on a sliding scale over 15 years.
Asked if the bill is dead, she replied: “I'm not going to say that at the moment.”
Earlier in the day, the House Local Government & Townships Committee approved five changes to the bill - which will give townships more leverage to oppose annexation requests but speed up certain types of annexation if all the property owners agree.
One amendment wiped out a provision that would have enabled county commissioners to issue subpoenas when they consider annexations pitting municipalities against townships.
The committee chairman, state Rep. Robert Schuler, said developers were afraid that county commissioners and townships might use subpoenas to harass business executives seeking annexations.
County commissioners and townships wanted the subpoena power to get information when developers seek an annexation, get rejected, and then take it to court without supplying details about what they plan to build, Mr. Schuler said.
Lost in the debate, however, is the voice of residential property owners, Ms. Schappacher said.
“I am not a lawyer, nor a public official, nor a paid lobbyist. I am simply a property owner, a wife, a mother, who is currently a pawn in a major political game,” she said.
Ms. Schappacher told legislators that the bill will make it tougher for property owners in townships to get their land annexed to municipalities.
“I feel confident that you would feel the same if you were a property owner about to lose some of your rights, rather than a legislator who may believe this is simply a political battle. It is far more than that,” she said.
But Mr. Schuler, a Republican who represents a suburban Cincinnati district, said the bill would help property owners.
The bill requires county commissioners to approve an annexation without a hearing if property owners, the municipality, and township agree. The land to be annexed could not be larger than 350 acres, Mr. Schuler said.
State Rep. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) said he supports a bill to give townships a “greater voice at the table” in annexation decisions. He noted that Perrsyburg and Perrysburg Township have worked together to develop the J. Preston Levis Commons business park at I-475 and State Rt. 25.
“I don't think this legislation has to inhibit that type of cooperation,” he said.
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