Burton Village Council unanimously rejected a “final”offer from Burton Township Trustees Monday on an annexation agreement that would have opened the door to both communities sharing tax revenues from a proposed senior housing complex.

“I don’t think the 50 percent (sharing) is fair,” Councilwoman Ruth Spanos said.

All of council shared Mrs. Spanos’ sentiments on the proposed agreement, saying the 50/50 split of tax revenues in perpetuity fell short of what the village will be spending to provide utilities to the 26-acre property to the west of the village proposed for development, known as Hillside Village.

Mr. Demko had approached the village in April, asking for his 26-acre property to be annexed into the village and to receive water and sewer services.

Council President Charles “Skip” Boehnlein said he agreed with Mrs. Spanos, noting “anything in perpetuity is out of the question.”

Burton Township Trustee Kenneth Burnett said the offer by trustees came after two months of negotiations with the village, adding that once the property is annexed into the village it will never come back. He said the developer, Dan Demko, has alleviated some of the village’s potential costs, offering to maintain streets and utilities within the development, making the 50/50 share “reasonable.”

Burton Mayor Joseph Hernandez said the village had offered the township a sliding scale for revenue sharing with 80 percent of the taxes going to the township during the first three years of a 20-year agreement. That was followed by 52.5 percent in years four and five, 40 percent in years six through 12, 27.5 percent in years 13 to 15 and 15 percent in years 16 through 20.

Mr. Burnett said he could not speak for the trustee board, but said the agreement could be amended if new information was provided and pointed to the village’s costs for handling the development’s anticipated 25,000 gallon daily flow from the development and those maintenance costs as information that could affect trustees’ decision.

Mr. Boehnlein said following the vote that the village should act immediately to begin the process of annexing the property without any participation by the township. That would leave the township with no revenues from the development.

Mrs. Spanos urged council to first consult with village solicitor Todd Hicks before taking any action.

Council is expected to call a special meeting to expedite the matter.

Mr. Hernandez said the major expense for the village will be running the water and sewer lines to the development.

Mrs. Spanos said in addition, the village will have the cost of providing police to the area. “I wouldn’t want to take it on with only half the revenues,” she said. She said the township gets little revenue now from the undeveloped property and has the opportunity to increase their take with the offer from the village.

Mr. Boehnlein added that the village has already revised its plans for the ongoing $12 million waste-water treatment plant by adding a waste holding tank to accommodate the development.

Mr. Demko said the township only receives approximately $1,370 annually now in property taxes. He said those taxes will increase to $340,000 as the development is completed.

Bill Brooks, a partner in the development, said the senior housing complex would be a “perfect transition” between residential and commercial development.

Councilman Nick Tromba said governments are not a for-profit corporation and the village is looking to what is fair in terms of recouping its expenses in providing and maintaining services.

Mr. Brooks said a pump station needed to send a flow uphill back to the village will cost developers $100,000. He said the development will also pay for the pump station’s maintenance.

Councilwoman Bonnie Richards asked whether the township would be agreeable to having a percentage in perpetuity that is less than the 50 percent. She said she had no problem with a perpetuity agreement, but not at 50 percent.

Mr. Burnett said the proposal was supposed to be a final vote on the matter, but added he could not speak for the entire board.

Mr. Burnett said the board consulted with their attorney, asking if the agreement could be amended at a later time. He said the attorney said amendments are possible.

Mr. Hernandez said adjustments could be made to the agreement at the end of the 20-year term.

But, Mr. Burnett replied, that those amendments would be made after the property is already annexed into the village.

Mr. Brooks said the project, now proposed for 120 to 160 units, would eventually provide $17 million in the local economy. He said that amount would not be realized immediately as the initial 120 units would be built over a 12-month period. Still, he said, the township would be realizing “way more” in taxes as the property is improved than it now receives.

Mr. Hernandez said he would like to work out an agreement that is acceptable to both sides, considering the two communities are neighbors. “I hate to drag this out for Mr. Demko, but we want to make sure it’s right,” Mr. Hernandez said.

Mr. Boehnlein said he feels “very uncomfortable” delaying the process any longer and called for the village to move forward with a request for annexation by Mr. Demko. He said that was council’s only option unless they are willing to accept the “take it, or leave it” proposal from the township.

Mrs. Spanos then asked that the village first consult with their attorney.

Mr. Demko said he had hoped for an expedited annexation, but said others are pushing for similar developments. Mr. Brooks provided two recent newspaper articles, showing interest in senior housing in Chester and Bainbridge townships. “Other people are looking into this,” Mr. Demko said. “If we don’t get going, it won’t happen.”

Mr. Brooks appeared to welcome council’s decision, saying, “They’re (the township) not going to cooperate with us.”

Joseph Koziol Jr. started his career in journalism in 1981. He joined the Solon Times in 1992 and covered the city of Solon for 10 years. An award winning reporter, Mr. Koziol has been covering Geauga County since 2012.

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