Sugarcreek levy off ordered off ballot

By Scott Halasz - [email protected]

XENIA — Sugarcreek Township residents in March will not be voting on a levy that would fund a newly created fire district excluding the Cornerstone of Centerville.

The Ohio Supreme Court Friday ordered the Greene County Board of Elections to remove the levy from the March 15 ballot. Had the levy appeared and been approved, the current fire district would have eventually been rescinded and Cornerstone, which has Costco has a major tenant, along with some restaurants, would not have fire and emergency medical service.

Centerville, which annexed the former Dille property in 2006, does not have its own fire department and the area had been served by Sugarcreek Township. The two sides have tried for more than a year to come to an agreement on how much Centerville would pay Sugarcreek for fire/EMS coverage but have not been able to settle.

Centerville contends that Sugarcreek walked away from a verbal agreement that was previously reached.

In its Friday ruling, the court sided with Cornerstone’s developer, Oberer Companies, in that the township did not enact the proper resolutions by the Dec. 16 deadline for items to be placed on the ballot.

The township on Oct. 19, 2015 passed a resolution establishing the Sugarcreek Township Fire District, declaring the necessity for an additional levy and indicating that the proposed levy would be placed on the March 2016 ballot and argued that was sufficient according to the Ohio Revised Code.

But on Jan. 8, 2016 the township passed another resolution captioned “Resolution to Proceed for Ballot for Fire District Levy 2016.”

The Supreme Court said “Sugarcreek Township argues that a second resolution is unnecessary but does not explain why it passed the January 8, 2016 resolution.” In citing the Ohio Ballot Questions and Issues Handbook prepared by the Office of the Secretary of State, the court opined that Sugarcreek Township did not adopt a resolution to proceed until “well past the 90-day deadline” for submitting the levy to the board of elections.

The court also said because the boards of elections are required to begin distributing absent-voter ballots to uniformed service members and overseas absent voters today, “the court will entertain no additional motions in this case.”

“We are pleased that the court decided to remove Sugarcreek Township’s levy measure from the ballot,” Oberer owner George Oberer Jr. said via email statement. “This is the township’s second, failed attempt to deny fire and EMS services to Cornerstone development, its retail tenants and other business, shoppers and motorists on and around Feedwire Road, Wilmington Pike and I-675.”

The township in 2014, four days prior to Costco opening, passed a resolution creating a new fire district but later rescinded the district after a lawsuit was filed by Oberer.

“While we believe the township will likely try for a third time to remove fire and EMS service from the Cornerstone development and other incorporated areas of Sugarcreek Township, we encourage the township to instead work with the City of Centerville to resolve these issues for all parties affected,” Oberer said.

Centerville officials agree with Oberer.

“We hold out hope that the Sugarcreek Township Trustees will not continue down this path of trying to deny a vital safety service to an area located both in Sugarcreek Township and Centerville and will finally recognize, as did the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek schools, that the financial benefits for Sugarcreek Township taxpayers generated by the Cornerstone development will far exceed its costs,” said Mayor Brooks Compton.

Township Administrator Barry Tiffany was not available for comment.

By Scott Halasz

[email protected]

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.