Clermont County Commissioners approved the village of Batavia’s most recent annexation petition during their Sept. 5 meeting.
The annexation brings 277 acres along state Route 32 into the village. The properties annexed include the county office complex near Bauer Road and Batavia High School.
Commissioners voted to approve the petition after listening to presentations from the legal counsels of the village of Batavia and Batavia Township.
The village of Batavia filed the petition July 18 and Batavia Township trustees opposed the petition Aug. 7 and sent it to commissioners to review.
Wanda Carter, the attorney representing Batavia Township, presented her side first to explain the reasons trustees voted to oppose the petition.
“I’m going to talk about two issues that should have the board deny the annexation,” Carter said during her presentation.
Carter argued that the requirement of having a proper owner sign the petition was not met and also argued that the property being annexed was not contiguous to the village.
Carter said the land parcel bordering the village was originally owned by Ryan James Clepper.
She said Clepper signed a pre-annexation document that said he would participate in the petition, but later refused to sign the petition.
She said the Glen Wiedenbein purchased the parcel of land from Clepper and then signed the petition for annexation.
Carter suggested that Wiedenbein purchased the land to be able to have a signature for the annexation petition.
“We believe this person signed to affect the number of signatures,” Carter said.
Carter said that if Wiedenbein signed the petition to affect the number of signatures, he is not considered a proper owner requesting to have his land annexed into the village.
Carter also argued that the petition violated the rule that the property being annexed must be contiguous to the village.
She said the way the annexation travels from the property bordering the village up State Route 32 near Bauer Road and includes Batavia High School was an example of a “balloon on a string” annexation.
“Do we want small villages running up roadways grabbing things with a tax base?” Carter asked commissioners.
Carter cited the Middletown vs. McGee court case, where she said a judge ruled against an annexation similar to the annexation in question.
“Under state law of what we consider a municipality, we believe the territory is not contiguous,” Carter said.
Carter asked commissioners to consider the questions she raised about the petition and to also consider whether or not the petition for annexation is the right way for a municipality to grow.
“In terms of good government what is best for the county and for the state is not this annexation,” Carter said. “We would ask commissioners to stand against the annexation and look at these issues carefully.”
Joseph Trauth Jr., who presented the case for the village of Batavia, spent his 10 minutes discussing why the annexation is acceptable under the Ohio Revised Code because it meets the seven requirements of an Expedited Type 2 Annexation.
“First, Ms. Carter presented no case law or citation,” Trauth said.
Trauth said with regard to Glen Wiedenbein being the proper owner of the property bordering the village, there is no evidence to the contrary.
Trauth said there is no evidence to prove Wiedenbein affected other property owners who signed the petition because there were no other property owners who signed.
“Type 2 only requires one property owner to sign,” Trauth said.
Trauth said as far as the “balloon on a string,” annexation and the Middletown vs. McGee case, contiguity was not defined until after the case.
“The law has changed since the Middletown case was decided,” Trauth said.
Trauth said section 709.23 (E) of the Ohio Revised Code defines a contiguous property as one with at least a five percent touch on a perimeter.
“We have met all statutory requirements,” Trauth said about the annexation. “The Ohio Revised Code does not allow subjective review. It is objective as to whether the law has been met.”
Commissioners gave both Carter and Trauth time for a rebuttal and waited until the end of the session to vote on the issue.
Prior to moving on with their agenda, however, Commissioner Ed Humphrey and Commissioner David Uible took a moment to discuss their opinions about the issue.
“I believe this is not a proper annexation and should be denied,” Humphrey said. “I realize there is an owner but I don’t believe it is a proper owner.”
Humphrey said when it comes to the issue of contiguity, he believes the Supreme Court discussion Middletown vs. McGee applies to the petition.
“It violates the basic concept of municipal unity, therefore I oppose the annexation,” Humphrey said.
Uible also took a moment to explain his feelings about the annexation.
He said he questioned whether the annexation was taxation without representation, but knows that his decision must be based on the seven requirements for a Expedited Type 2 Annexation.
“I can only go on the Ohio Revised Code,” Uible said. “I believe the village has met the seven requirements.”
Uible said because the petition met the requirements he would have to vote in favor of the annexation.
“I am only a commissioner, not a judge,” Uible said.
Commissioner Bob Proud did not reveal his thoughts about the annexation petition until it was time for a vote at the end of the agenda.
“I would love nothing more to deny this,” Proud said about the petition. “I would implore state legislature to revisit that statute. But there are seven criteria that are very specific on what needs to be met.”
Proud said commissioners met with members of the prosecutor’s office, who serve as legal counsel for the commissioners.
“Our counsel’s opinion is strong on what has been met,” Proud said.
When it came down to a vote, Humphrey voted to oppose the petition and Uible and Proud voted in favor of approving the annexation.
Now that the county has acted on the petition, the village of Batavia must wait 60 days before accepting the petition by ordinance. If the village council approves the ordinance it will go into effect 30 days after it is passed.
This annexation is the third annexation petition filed by the Batavia in the past two years. The first annexation brought the UC Clermont College campus into the village. The second annexation brought the sheriff’s office and Clermont County Municipal Court within village limits.