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November 27, 2012

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Staff Writer

Delaware County Commissioner Dennis Stapleton is growing frustrated with losing land to the county’s neighbors to the south, but knows that there is not much he can do about it.

Stapleton and his colleagues on Thursday unanimously approved an annexation petition for 5.6 acres in Orange Township to the City of Westerville.

“I still, from a personal standpoint, fail to realize how it’s advantageous for us to allow our property to be annexed into the City of Columbus or the City of Westerville,” Stapleton said.

It is the second annexation from Orange Township that the commissioners have signed off on this year. The first involved a 7.2-acre tract of land going to the City of Columbus for the development of an apartment building and an extended stay hotel.

Unfortunately, Stapleton said, county commissioners in Ohio have virtually no power to stop annexations.

“I think it’s important for the public to know that we’re acting as the recipient of these filings,” he said.

Still, he would like for Delaware County townships to do more to prevent future land loss.

“I would urge the folks of Orange Township and the other townships that border the City of Columbus and Westerville to consider some alternatives to allowing properties to just constantly be annexed away,” he said. “I think there’s a better way of doing it. I don’t know what it is, but there has to be a better way.”

Commissioner Tommy Thompson, who admitted there is not much the county can do to prevent annexations, suggested sending a letter of concern to officials in Orange Township and other border areas.

“We are wanting to keep Delaware County part of Delaware County and we don’t always want to end up being a part of Columbus, Westerville or whatever,” he said. “If it means that we need to re-evaluate what we are currently doing, we should re-evaluate it and share that information with our folks.”

Orange Township Trustee Rob Quigley, too, wishes that more could be done to prevent annexations but said that the township is constrained by Ohio law.

“We don’t have much power, and that’s up to everybody (in the state legislature) that made those laws,” he said. “I wish there was a better way because we have a lot of residents concerned about what goes in their back yard.”

The properties being annexed are located on Taylor Way Drive, and due to the fact that the area is surrounded by the City of Westerville on all four sides, Quigley and Orange Township Zoning Inspector Tom Farahay expect to be presented with more annexations in the future.

“That’s a little island that is slowly being annexed into the City of Westerville,” Farahay said. “Eventually that whole area over there will become part of Westerville.”