2 cities vying to provide services to developments on U.S. 42


This is the latest in a continuing series of stories on efforts to manage residential growth in Warren County. We will continue to follow this issue and other stories involving growth and economic development and how they impact government services.

Mason is expected to yield to Lebanon to bring sewers to a 127-acre housing development to be located between the two cities.

Mason City Manager Eric Hansen said Mason would support Lebanon providing the sewers to the Highlands at Heritage Hill, one of several housing developments expected to transform the U.S. 42 corridor between the two cities.

“It’s adjacent to Lebanon,” Hansen said in a telephone interview after a Warren County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday.

At the meeting, the commissioners took the first step toward supporting Lebanon providing sewer service to the development of the former Rapp farm on U.S. 42.

The last time the county took this step, it triggered a dispute between Lebanon and Mason over sewer service of the former Todorov farm, another large piece of undeveloped land between the two cities.

“I don’t want this commission to run into the same problem,” Chris Brausch, the county’s sanitary engineer, said during the meeting.

Mason purchased part of the Todorov tract and annexed more than 400 acres just south of the former Rapp farm after prevailing in the dispute over sewer service.

More than 300 homes are proposed on the section of the former Todorov property on the east side of U.S. 42, just south of the Rapp farm.

On Tuesday, Mason council approved an assessment district to help pay for $2.3 million in roads and other infrastructure for the residential development, to be called Ambleside Meadows.

“Establishing this assessment district is the culmination of over three years of work on this project,” Hansen said in a memo to council. “It would complete the public improvements needed for the development and future Mason residents for the least cost to current taxpayers.”

Highland Development Partners’ request to the county to make way for sewer service from Lebanon would enable development of 43 homes on the Rapp property, which actually fronts Columbia Road, but backs onto U.S. 42 between Mason and Lebanon.

Mike Williams of Highland said he had already sold 20 of 28 lots to be developed in the original section.

Highland also contacted Mason about providing the sewer service, but was left with the impression Mason wanted to avoid another dispute with Lebanon.

“They didn’t want to get into the same historical problem,” Williams said after the meeting.

On Tuesday, Hansen said the Mason would provide sewer service, if Lebanon — which originally declined to provide sewers without annexation — ultimately decided not to provide the service.

The commissioners directed Brausch to get Mason’s position in writing before bringing the issue back before them.

Lebanon has a line closer to the development, but Brausch said Mason’s sewage treatment plant was actually closer.

In either scenario, Highland would pay for the sewer-line extension.

Lebanon — which previously opposed the develoment — projected tap-in fees of $212,900 and $29,400 a year in revenue from the extension.

Lebanon City Council is scheduled to discuss approving a memorandum of understanding with Highland to provide sewer service without annexation at a Feb. 16 work session and vote on the agreement Feb. 23.

If the cities and Union Twp. reach consensus, the county would relinquish its right to sewer the area, while retaining rights to provide the water service.

The Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments would have to approve a change to the map, which designates authority for providing sewer service across Ohio.

The change ultimately has to be approved by Gov. John Kasich, Brausch said.

“It’s a process that could take four to five months,” he said.

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