The owners of nearly 43?acres of prime real estate fronting Sawmill Road have a message for the city of Dublin: Let us go. Please. Property owners Mark and Sonja Sheriff, Joseph and Diane Banks and the Reywal Co. Limited Partnership have been fighting in court for more than five years to secede from Dublin and have their three separate tracts of land revert to Perry Township. They say the city never provided promised water and sewer services, which are necessary to develop the vacant properties into a commercial retail area.
The owners of nearly 43?acres of prime real estate fronting Sawmill Road have a message for the city of Dublin: Let us go. Please.
Property owners Mark and Sonja Sheriff, Joseph and Diane Banks and the Reywal Co. Limited Partnership have been fighting in court for more than five years to secede from Dublin and have their three separate tracts of land revert to Perry Township.
They say the city never provided promised water and sewer services, which are necessary to develop the vacant properties into a commercial retail area. Dublin doesn’t like their development plan. The city says the property should instead be used for homes, offices and parkland.
The properties are at the northeastern tip of Dublin, at Summit View and Sawmill roads, and serve as an entry into the city from the north. The land is rented by a nearby riding stable for pasture and growing hay.
The property owners say Dublin has failed to provide water and sewer services to the area as promised when the land was absorbed into the city in 1973 as part of a larger annexation. They sued in 2007 to detach from the city.
Dublin maintains that it doesn’t provide water and sewer services to undeveloped land and has no intention of doing so for these properties unless the proposed development is in keeping with the city’s long-range plan.
The city won the first round in court two years ago, but the property owners appealed. The Franklin County Court of Appeals reversed the decision, and the lawsuit was sent back to Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
The lower court held a three-day trial in September, and both sides filed their closing arguments last week with Judge Michael J. Holbrook. Court officials couldn’t say when a decision might come, but the attorneys involved expect that it could be several months.
In Ohio, for annexed land to detach from a city, it must be farmland, the annexation must have occurred more than five years earlier, and the taxes paid on the land must be more than the worth of the services provided. Dublin’s attorneys argued at trial that the properties meet only the time criteria.
“Plaintiffs are hardly poor farmers being pillaged by Dublin; quite the contrary,” attorney Jeremy Grayhem wrote in his closing argument. “(They) want Dublin to expend $1.4 million to extend sewer to their properties so they can reap the financial benefit.”
Perry Township Administrator Robert Myers, who testified at the trial about the township’s ability to accept the land and provide services, wouldn’t say whether the township would welcome a retail development there.
At issue in the trial were taxes paid. Since 2000, Reywal has paid about $4,894 in municipal taxes. Dublin taxes paid on the other two properties combined were about $3,331.
Dublin says those tax payments didn’t cover even the cost of the police calls to the properties over the years: a call about a burglary (a house once stood on one of the properties), civil matters and complaints from neighbors about all-terrain-vehicle use and disturbances.
Bruce Ingram, one of the attorneys representing the landowners, said the argument about whether the taxes outweigh the benefits isn’t about the money. He said the property owners aren’t trying to claim that their taxes are exorbitant.
“Even if you only pay $1 in taxes, you’re still not getting the services that were promised: water and sewer,” he said. “That is not fair and that is not right.”
He said the property owners have suggested several plans for the property, and Dublin wouldn’t entertain any of them.
“Dublin wants a pretty park to make a visual statement for people driving in,” Ingram said.“
This is about the city wanting nothing on that property. Ever. Period. Not even what their own plan calls for.“And that renders it useless to the owners.”