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Published: Wednesday, 9/27/2006

County OKs water accord with Toledo

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Commissioner Maggie Thurber Commissioner Maggie Thurber
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Approval of a water agreement between Lucas County and the City of Toledo would open the city's spigot to townships in the western part of the county, but only for those willing to live by the rules.

County commissioners voted 2-1 yesterday to approve a deal allowing Toledo to sell water to rural western townships if they adopt policies that restrict growth and agree to share any resulting tax benefits with the city.

Commissioner Maggie Thurber voted against the agreement because, she said, the townships asked for more time to review the deal.

The agreement would provide water to all townships in western Lucas County not already receiving city water, including parts of Providence, Richfield, Spencer, Swanton, and Harding townships.

"The question is, what is the cost of autonomy?" Ms. Thurber said of the agreement. "The townships want to have water. They just want to know what goes into it."

The agreement would allow Toledo to sell water to residents in the townships, but any expansion of water use, such as for new housing or commercial developments, would have to be approved by city council.

The plan also requires the communities to pass a land-use policy and have zoning. Toledo would sell the water with a 75 percent surcharge on the basic rate charged in Toledo.

John Warkentin, chairman of the Swanton Township trustees, said the agreement doesn't leave townships many choices: Either they don't accept water or they let Toledo dictate how their community will grow.

"Nobody would want us to come over and tell them how to run their economic development. This agreement doesn't only set up exorbitant rates, it says the City of Toledo has [the] right to review our development," Mr. Warkentin said.

Toledo City Councilman Lourdes Santiago said the agreement is a positive for both parties because it does not limit growth in the townships, but it ensures it will be "smart growth."

She said by negotiating a deal where the city gets revenue from township developments, the city is not helping another jurisdiction compete with Toledo. Unlike in the past, the city is not looking to annex property, just share in the revenue, she said.

"The growth that takes place could not hurt Toledo because the city will benefit," she said.

Commissioners Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak said the agreement was overdue.

For years, Toledo refused to sell water to the western part of the county even when communities were drying up. That stance was broken a few years ago when an agreement was reached with Berkey, a village in the far northwestern portion of Lucas County.

The agreement with the rest of the county is modeled after the Berkey accord.

"We have to recognize that control of water has long been a source of conflict," Ms. Wozniak said. "With this agreement, we are working on providing water in a way that doesn't require anybody to be annexed."

"This gives townships flexibility," Mr. Gerken added. "If they don't like it, they don't have to go there."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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