COLUMBIANA - Three people who own roughly 48 acres of property in Fairfield Township are backing out from annexing into the city.
Municipal Attorney Daniel Blasdell said this week the property owners decided not to annex after the city declined to meet their "demands," which he said were "not acceptable."
City Manager Keith Chamberlin said Paul and Nevin Hawkins and Martha Blazek, the sister of Mr. Hawkins, wanted the city to provide utilities to the property at no cost to them, and wanted to ensure that the annexation would in no way impede any efforts on their part to lease land for oil and gas.
The city has expressed an interest in leasing city-owned property for mineral rights, but as of this month, no oil and gas exploration company has extended a formal lease, councilman Bryan Blakeman said.
The city has put some requirements on the type of lease they would approve since council is concerned about how the drilling would affect the city's nine water wells.
Attorney Alan Wenger, of Harrington, Hoppe and Mitchell, is negotiating with the companies on the city's behalf. Any lease approved would be for municipal land only and not privately owned property.
As for the annexation, Blakeman scolded Chamberlin for pushing it through "hastily" although he agreed the property owners' demands were too much.
"We were told everything was taken care of, then found out they (Chamberlin and the property owners) were meeting privately," Blakeman said.
Council approved filing a petition for the annexation at the Oct. 2 meeting. At that time, the Hawkins property was included in the annexation. The property is located not far from the city's baseball fields.
With the property included, the city was looking to annex roughly 134 acres from the township for the purpose of owning the property where the current water treatment plant is located. The outdated plant built in 1933 on the southeast end of the city near Metz Road will be replaced by a new multi-million-dollar plant over the next two years.
Blakeman said he didn't "have a problem" with allowing the property owners to back out, but didn't like how the petition went through so "hastily."
Blasdell argued "there wasn't anything hasty done," but that the property owners simply decided not to move forward after originally being interested.
Council unanimously approved the repeal of the former annexation legislation and filing of the remaining portion to be annexed, which is now at about 87 acres.