XENIA — The recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling that allowed Xenia to annex a strip of land connecting it to Central State University has led to many questions and rumors about the university and surrounding neighborhood.
Will the city annex the entire campus, which university leaders have requested?
Will Xenia attempt to annex portions of the Wilberforce neighborhood across from CSU?
What will the city do with the land it has already won the right to annex?
Some clarity may be coming soon. City council is expected to begin discussions on the proposed partnership between the city and university during a special meeting after Thursday’s regular council meeting.
“The issue of whether or not to move forward with annexation of Central State University, the council clearly said at the time they would take it up at a later date,” City Manager Brent Merriman said. “It’s a point of conversation that they do need to make a policy decision if or how they need to proceed. They’ve not made any definitive action at this point.”
Merriman said CSU could lower its operating costs and the city would have a “substantial” financial benefit if annexation took place. CSU is paying for water, sewer and fire and EMS services from Xenia. If it becomes part of the city, fire and EMS would be required services and CSU would no longer have to pay the non-resident surcharge for water.
Xenia would receive income tax from campus employees and even after losing the fire contract and water surcharge revenue, there would be a net benefit of several hundred thousand dollars, Merriman said.
If the city does move forward with the CSU partnership, Merriman said there is no plan to continue that annexation across the street, or anywhere else in the township. Many Wilberforce residents voiced those concerns and others as the annexation began its initial phases.
“They can’t be annexed if they don’t want to,” Merriman said. “At no point in time has the current or prior council had any conversations about any attempts at forced annexation of the Wilberforce area.”
Merriman said courts in the past have not been in favor of municipalities claiming eminent domain as a way to annex land, and its only been exercised in Xenia with issues of utilities and transportation projects. While public development is allowable under the eminent domain umbrella, Merriman doesn’t think Xenia has ever done that.
And given that Wilberforce is not in the city, claiming eminent domain is not advisable.
“The concept of the city exercising eminent domain outside of our jurisdiction … we would not even consider that,” Merriman said. “That would be wrought with legal peril.”
If the city opts to not pursue the CSU relationship, Merriman is not sure what Xenia will do with the 45.6 acres it is annexing. But he assures neighbors across State Route 42 that any development there will be an appropriate fit. He said the city’s zoning code is “more rigid” than township standards and the city does not take part in what is known as spot zoning, where a small parcel of land is rezoned for a use not consistent with areas around it.
The strip of land is currently zoned for governmental and institutional use and while the city is “pro development,” Merriman said the city’s land development code requires consideration of adjoining properties and how they are zoned and used, even if those properties are not in the city.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.