Miami County, residents’ attorney bicker over land annexation to Huber Heights

Commissioners denied Bethel Twp. residents’ request, but appeals court ordered them to reverse; attorney mentions possible contempt

TROY — An attorney for property owners seeking to annex their land into Huber Heights from Bethel Twp., Miami County, urged Miami County commissioners on Thursday to comply with an appeals court order to approve the annexation.

“This board has not acted. I urge you to do so in conformity of the court order to avoid a motion in contempt,” Joseph Miller of Columbus, attorney for the owners of 260.360 acres proposed for annexation, told commissioners.

Miller’s comments came at the end of a meeting between the commissioners and the Bethel Twp. trustees about issues including traffic, utility line extensions and overall land use. The meeting had been scheduled for some time, said Charlotte Colley, the commissioners’ administrator.

The 2nd District Court of Appeals recently issued a writ of mandamus in favor of the bid for annexation by the landowners/petitioners — Gessaman Family Farm LLC; Gary L. Lavy, trustee; Raymond E. and Kriss Haren; and the estate of Charles Stafford.

The decision orders the county commissioners, who denied the annexation of the property in April, to approve it. The commissioners said the petitioners met six of seven conditions required for annexation but had failed to meet a provision for water and sewer services.

The appellate judges disagreed, saying the commissioners’ opposition was based “solely on pragmatic (non-legal) considerations,” which did not constitute a legally sufficient basis for denying the annexation.

As Miller approached the podium when the commission opened the meeting to public comment, an assistant county prosecutor said he hoped Miller was not planning to comment on the annexation. Chris Englert, assistant prosecutor, said comment would not be appropriate because the annexation remains pending litigation.

Miller proceeded to comment, noting the court’s ruling and urging commissioners to act. If an appeal of the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court is being contemplated, Miller said commissioners would be opening the door to “a motion for sanctions for frivolous appeal.”

“I urge you to obey the rule of law,” Miller said. Commission President Ted Mercer thanked Miller for his comments.

Englert told commissioners he would consult with Prosecutor Tony Kendell. The commissioners said the county had received the appeals court decision but had not been served with the writ of mandamus.

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