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Venue gets OK to swap townships

Contested events center now under Swanton’s jurisdiction

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    Duke Wheeler testifies during a hearing before the Lucas County commissioners at One Government Center on his request to change the boundary lines of Swanton and Waterville townships to accomodate his Stables at Obee.

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    Duke Wheeler in his facility in January.

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    Thornton

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The owner of a wedding reception and events center near Whitehouse received approval Tuesday from the Lucas County commissioners to move 10 acres he owns from Waterville Township into adjoining Swanton Township.

The county commissioners, in a split vote, allowed for a petition circulated by Duke Wheeler to change boundaries between the township to allow for the Stables on Obee to fall under Swanton Township’s jurisdiction.

Commissioners Tina Skeldon Wozniak and Pete Gerken voted for the boundary change. Commissioner Carol Contrada voted against it.

The transfer allows Mr. Wheeler to receive the agriculture exemption on the property to avoid making about $500,000 in improvements required to comply with county building codes and other safety regulations.

He bought the former horse barn and stable in 2013 and converted the structure to rent for wedding receptions, fund-raisers, and other events. It adjoins about 400 acres he owns in Waterville Township.

Mr. Wheeler has a lawsuit pending in Lucas County Common Pleas Court against Waterville Township over the denial of an agriculture exemption for the property. Judge Ruth Ann Franks last month ruled against the township in Mr. Wheeler’s appeal on the denial of a special-use permit for the business.

The commissioners deliberated in private for about 20 minutes after a nearly hour-long hearing, which included testimony from Mr. Wheeler, a nearby resident, and Swanton Township and Waterville Township officials.

Mr. Gerken said he voted to approve the petition because of the more than 1,500 signatures of residents from both townships in support of the boundary change hearing.

“There are a majority of voters in the townships alluding to the fact that this should proceed. That is the fact I cannot ignore,” he said.

In explaining her vote, Mrs. Contrada said state law allows redrawing jurisdictions for “necessary or expedient” issues to receive services that can’t otherwise be provided.

“It is for us to determine for the public, not for the individual property owner,” she said.

The hearing on the petition to reconfigure township borders has been rarely used in Ohio. Lucas County officials cannot recall such a request being filed in the last 25 years.

Kim Thornton, who lives next to former horse barn, told the commissioners that noise, yelling, and loud music during events often lasts into the early morning, keeping him awake.

“My biggest problem is the lack of sleep,” said Mr. Thornton, whose shift at the Toledo Jeep plant begins at 3:30 a.m. “No one should have to live with this.”

Karen Schneider, a Waterville Township trustee, told commissioners the change of use from a barn to store animals to a reception hall necessitated adhering to regulations for building codes, occupancy, and water and sanitary sewer.

“Our concern is for public health and safety due to the change of use in the building,” she said.

Mr. Wheeler said he made changes in the building’s sound system and installed concrete barrier walls and planted trees to address neighbor complaints about noise.

Also, the driveway was widened to 25 feet and paved to create a fire lane to address concerns raised by the Whitehouse Fire Department, he said.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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