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Published: Friday, 6/13/2003

Court is asked for ruling on Waterville Twp. issue

The drive to remove the villages of Waterville and Whitehouse from Waterville Township has hit another snag.

Tim Pedro, a Waterville Township trustee who will lose his position if the separation happens, is one of the people challenging the constitutionality of the state law that allows it.

To sort the issue out, the Lucas County commissioners voted yesterday to ask a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge to decide the constitutionality of a law that allows only property owners who are registered voters to sign the removal petition.

John Borell, an assistant county prosecutor who recommended that action to the commissioners, said determining whether the law is constitutional before the separation occurs makes sense.

Otherwise, he said, decisions by trustees in a newly drawn township could be questioned if it's later determined the law is unconstitutional because it doesn't allow all residents - regardless of whether they own property - to take part in the process.

“This is an issue for the court to decide,” Mr. Borell said. “We need some direction.”

The complaint for declaratory judgment was assigned to Judge Robert Christiansen.

At issue is a law that allows property owners who are registered voters in an unincorporated area of a township to petition for the removal of a municipal corporation. If the petition is signed by a majority of the property owners who are registered voters in the unincorporated part of a township, the county commissioners have no choice but to approve the move.

Mr. Pedro said he is challenging the law because he doesn't think it calls for the right process for dividing the township. “I think there are a lot of citizens who have not been heard from,” he said. “Some of them are very much in opposition to breaking apart a wonderful community.”

A petition that would remove Waterville and Whitehouse from the township is being examined by the county to determine whether it meets the necessary criteria, but Mr. Borell said he suspects it has enough signatures.

A similar drive was turned away by the commissioners last year when it was determined the process was flawed.

The push by a group of Waterville Township residents started after Mr. Pedro, a village of Waterville resident, was elected in 2001.

Jack Trail, a Waterville Township trustee, said the motivation is the desire for self-determination. “They want to be able to elect the people that serve them from the unincorporated area,” Mr. Trail said.

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