New lawsuit in Cornerstone of Centerville dispute

The long-running dispute over fire and emergency services at the Cornerstone of Centerville development has taken a new turn with a lawsuit filed Tuesday against Sugarcreek Twp. and its trustees, who announced last month they would move ahead with plans to create a fire district that excludes Cornerstone.

Cornerstone developer Oberer Companies and its CEO, George Oberer Jr., sued the township and its three trustees and its fiscal officer, seeking an injunction, permanent court order and monetary damages in excess of $75,000. The case has been assigned to Greene County Common Pleas Judge Stephen Wolaver.

Sugarcreek Twp. and Centerville officials have swapped a series of offers and counteroffers over several months in an attempt to resolve their differences over how to pay for fire and EMS services provided to the Cornerstone property that Centerville annexed from Sugarcreek Twp. — an action that itself triggered a lengthy legal dispute.

Sugarcreek Twp. officials say Centerville — which does not have its own fire department — is not offering enough money from its tax collection on the annexed Cornerstone property to cover the township fire department’s operating costs in covering the large-scale development, which will include retail, residential and office uses. Oberer Companies says in its lawsuit that it has already paid taxes to the township in 2013 and 2014 for fire and EMS services.

Sugarcreek Twp. Administrator Barry Tiffany said this afternoon, Nov. 11, that he had not yet seen the lawsuit, but added that the township’s dispute is not with Oberer, whom Tiffany said “is doing his best to protect his interests.” The developer “probably needs to sue the city of Centerville, too,” the township administrator said.

Costco Wholesale opened a year ago on the Cornerstone property, and a Cabela’s outdoor store is under construction. Smaller businesses, including a Chick-fil-A, Bagger Dave’s Burger Tavern and Domino’s Pizza, are open or are gearing up to open in the coming weeks in the tract along Wilmington Pike near I-675.

The township is currently providing fire and EMS services to the businesses. But Sugarcreek Twp. officials announced last month that they would exclude Cornerstone from a fire district that it will form in 2017.

Oberer said in a release this afternoon, Nov. 11, that, “if Sugarcreek Township’s representatives have their way, they will put at risk anyone who shops there, uses those roadways, or does business in the area. They will put at risk their own Sugarcreek Township residents along with motorists traveling on I-675.”

Oberer said the areas excluded from fire and EMS service in the proposed 2017 fire district include retail development across and south of Feedwire Road from Cornerstone, such as the Cracker Barrel restaurant on Wilmington Pike, and merchants in the Sugarcreek Crossing plaza.

“This expansion is not only related to Cornerstone but intentionally impacts many other businesses, shoppers, employees, and innocent commuters,” Oberer said in the release. “We are completely frustrated by this situation. In addition to risking the public’s personal safety, the Township is interfering with our ability to do business.”

“Hopefully, this lawsuit will bring this controversy to an end and restore good judgement among Sugarcreek Twp. administrators and elected officials.”

Oberer had filed a lawsuit in Greene County Common Pleas Court early this year seeking relief in the dispute, but dropped that action in favor of a federal lawsuit.

Oberer claimd in the federal lawsuit that the township’s threat to form a fire district that excluded the Cornerstone development and other areas of Centerville that lie within the township from fire and EMS services damaged potential business at the development.

U.S. District Judge Walter Rice earlier this month threw out — at least temporarily — the federal lawsuit because he found flaws in the civil lawsuit as it was originally filed, and dismissed portions of it entirely. But the judge also told attorneys for Cornerstone Developers and Oberer Companies that they had 30 days to file an amended lawsuit to correct flaws in other portions of the lawsuit. Those modifications would keep the lawsuit alive.

Sugarcreek Twp. Administrator Barry Tiffany said last week the township’s trustees were “very pleased with the (judge’s) decision, as are the residents of the township.” Tiffany said he believes the federal lawsuit “is without merit.”

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