XENIA — The Second District Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Xenia in its quest to annex a strip of land from Xenia Township near Wilberforce.
In a decision handed down Nov. 15, judges Jeffrey M. Welbaum, Mary E. Donovan, and Jeffrey E. Froelich agreed all requirements of a Type 2 Annexation were met and issued a writ of mandamus (a court order) to the Greene County Board of Commissioners to grant the annexation “as described in the petition.”
In September 2017 the city petitioned to have 45.637 acres of land — including part of the Ohio to Erie Bike Trail owned by the city and some state-owned property — annexed into Xenia to open the possibility of annexing Central State University. Commissioners — who considered seven criteria to make their decision — denied the petition in November 2017.
The city in May 2018 then petitioned the Second District Court of Appeals to compel the county to approve the annexation, arguing all seven required criteria of the annexation were not met. Eighteen months later, the city got its wish.
“I thought it was absolutely correct,” Xenia Law Director Donnette Fisher said of the court’s ruling. “This is the city trying to annex land the city owns.”
Board members considered seven criteria to make their decision: petition was properly filed, all owners signed, annexation territory does not exceed 500 acres, 5 percent of the perimeter of the annexation territory shares a contiguous and continuous boundary with the city, no islands of unincorporated territory are surrounded by annexed territory, city has agreed to provide services, and city has agreed to assume any road maintenance problem.
In ultimately denying the petition, the county opined that the final four criteria were not met. City officials disagreed.
“Our argument was that you said we don’t meet these four conditions,” Fisher said. “All the evidence shows that we do. (There is) very limited discretion by the county commissioners.”
The county can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Ohio, however no decision has been made.
“We are speaking with the prosecutor’s office about potential next steps,” said Lisa Hale, director of risk management for the county. “We are going to wait on advice from our legal counsel.”
If the county doesn’t appeal, it must pass a resolution approving the annexation, Fisher said. Once the city receives the record of that from the county, it has 120 days to pass an ordinance or resolution accepting or rejecting the annexation. If accepted, it becomes effective 30 days after, Fisher said.
The city could then move forward with Central State.
“Once this phase of annexation is complete CSU leadership and city leaders will determine the feasibility and strategic value of additional annexation for service delivery,” City Manager Brent Merriman said. “CSU leaders have previously expressed interest in joining the municipal corporation and we find mutual potential value. There are additional policy requirements and statutory steps necessary to advance the conversation.”
A Xenia Township representative was not able to be reached by press time.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.