“No controversy,” said Catherine Cunningham, the lawyer handling the annexation for Mason, before Tuesday’s vote by the commissioners.
The annexation is a key step in Mason’s plans to develop the land along U.S. 42 with Terra Firma Associates, a developer based in Loveland.
Terra Firma is expected to build 317 homes on 222 acres, but Mason has purchased part of the former Todorov land in hopes of attracting commercial or industrial development and minimizing pressure on the local schools.
The land-use change was the subject of a two-year process, begun when Terra Firma and Lebanon approached the county about the development.
Terra Firma originally proposed the development without annexation and with sewer service provided by Lebanon. Terra Firma claimed it needed to move forward with Lebanon, since Mason wasn't responding to its proposals.
Mason and Mason City Schools intervened in January 2014, concerned about the development of as many as 800 homes on school crowding and arguing the city should provide the utility services.
Mason demonstrated it was better situated to provide the sewer service and worked on an agreement with Terra Firma to buy some of the property for commercial development. The city paid Terra Firma $3.1 million for 178 acres, although Terra Firma has first option if Mason decides to sell the land.
Mason also agreed to a payment of $960,000 - $80,000 a year for 12 years - to Union Twp. so that the annexation could be expedited. The payment is designed to offset lost revenues to the township.
“Annexation is an unfortunate part of township government,” Koch said. “Municipalities are becoming larger, townships are becoming smaller. It’s inevitable.”
Mason is to provide all services, including police, fire and ambulance, following the annexation. The annexation is subject to a 60-day waiting period.