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Published: 6/15/2007

Perrysburg water war may wind up in court

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - A disagreement between Perrysburg and Perrysburg Township over who enforces zoning regulations when the city is providing water and sewer services in the township appears headed to court.

While township trustees had said they hoped to avoid litigation, Wood County Assistant Prosecutor Linda Holmes told Wood County commissioners yesterday that after several meetings with city officials, the two sides are no closer to resolving their differences.

"We are, in all likelihood, going to court," she told commissioners, explaining that she wanted to give them a "heads up."

"We think they have asserted their authority far beyond what is allowed," Ms. Holmes said, referring to the city of Perrysburg. "They're using their utilities to control township property."

The dispute developed when Wal-Mart began making plans to build a 184,000-square-foot store at U.S. 20 and Simmons Road in the township. It paid about $9,000 to the township for zoning permits and then was billed $21,400 by the city for similar permits.

Although the city eventually agreed to credit Wal-Mart for the amount it paid to the township, Craig LaHote, chairman of the township trustees, said developers interested in building along the growing U.S. 20 corridor are frustrated by the two layers of regulations and fees.

"We don't want someone looking at the area thinking this all looks too complicated. Indiana is looking good," he told the county commissioners.

Mr. LaHote said it also was not sensible for the township to duplicate what the city was doing.

The question, Ms. Holmes said, is whether it's reasonable for the city to require a developer to meet the city's more extensive zoning requirements in order to get water and sewer services.

By doing so, she contends, the city is violating the township's authority to enforce zoning as well as the Wood County engineer's authority to regulate road and storm sewer construction and the county planning commission's authority to enforce standards for subdivisions in unincorporated areas.

Perrysburg City Administrator John Alexander, who did not attend yesterday's meeting, said he was disappointed to learn the township planned to take the dispute to court. City and township officials this year discussed forming a joint committee to work out their differences.

"The city of Perrysburg has on many occasions offered to meet with township representatives in an appropriate forum, such as the proposed joint planning body, to discuss matters of mutual concern," Mr. Alexander said.

"It was, and is, the city's vision to engage in direct discussion with township officials on all matters that are mutually beneficial to our respective citizens."

Wood County Prosecutor Ray Fischer said the township isn't planning to seek monetary damages from the city, but simply wants a judgment from the court on the issue.

"We want to know if it's legal for them to do this and, if it is, we'll live with it. But we think it's going a step too far," Ms. Holmes said, adding that she worries it sets a bad precedent.

"If Perrysburg can do this to Perrysburg Township," she said, "Toledo can do this to Perrysburg or to Rossford or to Northwood."

Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown said the county had a well-earned reputation for cooperation and he hoped the dispute could be worked out.

"We are where we are because of cooperation," he said.

Contacted after the meeting, Wood County Engineer Ray Huber said he would be interested in being a party to the township's complaint because he wants to see the city and county agree on a common set of standards for streets and storm drainage to avoid confusion for everyone.

"I don't want to be adversarial, but I don't want to roll over and play dead," Mr. Huber said.

David Steiner, planning director, said he didn't know whether the county planning commission ought to get involved. He said Ms. Holmes was scheduled to address the commission next month on the issue.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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