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Published: Wednesday, 1/30/2008

Panel members question need for petition drive

BY MIKE JONES
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

A petition for annexation to the city of Sylvania by residents of a condominium development has some members of the One Sylvania merger committee wondering if they should continue their petition drive to get a merger commission on the November ballot.

One of the residents of Country Walk Commons is a Sylvania Township candidate for the merger commission, and annexation would cause him to be a resident of the city.

Under state law, the same number of electors from each jurisdiction involved in a possible merger are required to be on the ballot to form a commission to study a possible merger.

Given that the annexation could cause a township resident to lose that status, some members of One Sylvania have questioned whether continuing to gather petition signatures is reasonable.

The committee hopes to have the question of forming a merger commission on the November ballot.

The group needs about 1,000 more signatures and would like to have the petitions filed with the board of elections by April, 1, the date set by Lucas County commissioners to hear the annexation petition filed by residents of Country Walk.

Robert Sommer, head of the condominium association, said residents of the development are upset with township trustees, particularly their decision to end ambulance service by the fire department.

Mr. Sommer added that the township is funded mainly by real estate taxes and that the township isn't growing as fast as it once was.

"They'll have to keep raising taxes or lower services. There isn't anything else to do. It's a downward spiral'' he said as another reason for wanting the development to become part of the city.

He added that he is aware of the effort to merge the two governments, but said the issue will take too long to decide and he is tired of waiting.

The annexation petition filed with the clerk of the county commissioners has the signatures of 53 of the 72 owners of condominiums. Mr. Sommer said there are 55 parcels and that some residents didn't favor annexation and others were out of town or otherwise were unavailable when he collected signatures.

Sam Steinman, the commission candidate who lives in the area seeking annexation, said he is undecided about whether the group should continue collecting signatures now.

He noted that the desired deadline of getting the petitions in by the hearing date might be difficult to achieve.

He also said people have put in a lot of effort in trying to get a commission on the ballot so that members can study the issue, make a recommendation to the public, and potentially put the issue of merger on a ballot.

Doug Haynam, chairman of the zoning and annexation committee of Sylvania City Council, said he favors continuing to collect signatures and file the petitions with the board of elections.

Mr. Haynam, an attorney, has been active with One Sylvania and makes no secret that he thinks merging the two governments is a good idea.

He said it is not a given that the county commissioners would approve the petition for annexation, and if they do it is possible the issue would be appealed to the common pleas court. Even a decision at that level could be reviewed by the court of appeals. All of that could be a lengthy process.

Even without court action, the city of Sylvania might determine that it doesn't want to take in the area.

He said there would be no economic advantage to the city and the city would have to extend services such as police protection.

If a merger commission is elected and the annexation takes place after that, Mr. Steinman could resign from the body and, under state law, the township trustees would provide a replacement.



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