December 2, 2011
Delaware Township residents are attempting to reverse an annexation agreement that would turn about eight acres of the township over to the City of Delaware.
Delaware Township Trustee Roger VanSickle appeared before Delaware City Council this week to voice his concern over the planned annexation involving 10 township properties whose owners signed contracts in 2001 agreeing to accept city water in exchange for becoming part of the city within 10 years. VanSickle suggested that there was a miscommunication when the 2001 agreements were signed.
“The residents were not aware of what they signed at the time,” VanSickle said. “All they wanted to do was restore the water.”
Reached later, Councilman Joe DiGenova, who participated in the 2001 meetings with the township, said the residents “knew exactly what was happening.”
“They were told that we were going to give them water and, within 10 years, they were supposed to annex,” said DiGenova. “Now they got their water and they don’t want to annex.”
The 2001 conversations between the township and the city began after “black muck” started coming out of the township residents’ faucets — a result of sewer damage around Houk Road caused by a contractor, VanSickle said.
To resolve the situation, the developer agreed to pay the tap fees for the affected residents. The city agreed to pay up to $40,000 for the water line. Every property owner affected by the project signed an annexation agreement.
For the last 10 years, those residents have received city water at a rate equal to those of city residents, said city spokesperson Lee Yoakum.
Township resident Ruth Fisher, one of the annexed property owners, said she signed the agreement because the wells were broken — not necessarily because she preferred to use the city’s services over the township’s.
“I know the protocol was that if we asked for water, we’d have to become the city, but we needed water because of this contractor’s error,” Fisher said. “It wasn’t that we wanted to become the city.”
VanSickle said he believes the city could have done more to explain what the residents were signing.
“We tried to remedy damages and they slipped in an annexation,” he said.
DiGenova said the residents who signed the document labeled as “Agreement to Annex,” don’t have “a leg to stand on.”
Mayor Gary Milner said there are still “a lot of factors” to consider, but generally saw the annexation as a positive change for the city.
Considering that the township consists of several patches surrounded by the city, Milner said it would be a “benefit to all of us to bring those in as much as we can.”
City staff agreed to supply council with the signed contracts and meeting minutes dating back to the Sept. 21, 2001 meetings with the township.
Yoakum said the staff will recommend that council “continue the annexation process that is clearly defined in the signed annexation agreements.”
If council decides to pursue the annexation, VanSickle said he will protest it again at the county commissioner’s meeting.
According to the 2010 Census, Delaware Township is home to fewer than than 2,000 people.