ONTARIO -- The City of Ontario may be 11 acres larger in a few months.
The joint owners of an 11-acre parcel in Springfield Township have requested the property be annexed into the city. On Monday, Council passed two resolutions that could begin the annexation process at a special meeting.
“We definitely want to make sure that we consider the impact on current citizens,” said Eddie Gallo, city council president. “We definitely are not opposed to growth of any kind. We just want to make sure that everything's done correctly, done with due diligence.”
The parcel is located on the northside of Millsboro Road. Residential lots already within city limits border the property on its east, north and west sides.
Council members described the lot as “overgrown” and vacant. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Inventory mapper classifies much of the area as a riverine habitat, with a streambed and flowing water during part of the year.
The area would be zoned residential if incorporated into Ontario, according to City Law Director Andrew Medwid.
Council first discussed the resolutions at its meeting last Wednesday. Council typically has three readings of each piece of legislation, but a quirk in Ohio law requires both city council and the Springfield Township board of trustees to pass resolutions in 20 days.
After that, the annexation petition will go to the Richland County Commissioners for consideration. The commissioners will have between 30 and 45 days to review the petition and confirm that it meets the state’s legal requirements.
“If after 30 to 45 days they meet and decide that all the statutory requirements of the petition for annexation are met, they really don't have a choice. They have to accept it,” Medwid said.
After receiving approval from the county commissioners, the petition would return to city council for a final vote. Council would be required to vote on the petition within 60 to 120 days.
Some council members, including at large council member Dave Rehfeldt, expressed concern about the process feeling “rushed.” After Medwid explained that city council would have to vote again before annexing the property, council agreed to move forward with a vote.
Members voted 4-1 in favor of consenting to the annexation and authorizing the extension of city services to the property. At-large council member Chad Wilford voted against the measure.
What will become of the land?
Mayor Randy Hutchinson said the property owners hadn’t made their intentions for the parcel clear, but it could become a new housing development.
“There’s a possibility they might develop it into another street,” he said. “They might put one house there.”
If Ontario ends up annexing the land, the owner would have to receive approval from the city’s planning commission and pass city inspections before developing the property.
After notifying the owners of adjacent properties about the possible annexation, city council members received an email from residents on Sugar Maple Lane.
The email stated the residents have experienced low water pressure levels and flooding due to storm drain backups in the neighborhood.
“They were not necessarily opposed to the annexation. They're just concerned about development and want to make sure it doesn't exacerbate those existing issues,” Gallo said.
City council may look into ways to improve the situation regardless of whether or not the annexation occurs, Gallo said.
According to Hutchinson, administrators planned to contract an engineer to conduct a feasibility study of the area and see how the water issues can be resolved. Council members seemed to support the idea, but no formal vote was taken to authorize it.
Third ward council member Sherry Branham, who represents the area, said she supports the city’s pursuit of a feasibility study. Branham supports growing the city, but doesn’t want to do anything to create issues for current residents in her ward.
“We would have to have the study that the mayor had spoke about during the meeting and see the results of that,” she said.