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Trustees resolve double taxation issue

JACKSONTOWN – Monday night, Licking Township Trustees unanimously approved three resolutions to remove the River Oaks development permanently from the township, placing it exclusively in the City of Heath. Until Monday, development residents were paying both township and city levies, even though they were not receiving township services. Heath provides all services to River Oaks.

“We’re cleaning up (the zoning) so the boundaries are conforming,” said Eddie Hunt, Heath’s chief of building and zoning. “Basically, we’re cleaning it up so they don’t have dual representation.”

Previously, Bill Settles, president of the River Oaks Homeowners Association, told Licking Township Trustees River Oaks continues pay taxes to Licking Township even though it receives none of its services.

“The time has come to be released to Heath,” he said, adding that the River Oaks residents would have nothing to gain by supporting township levies.

Licking County Auditor’s Office personnel told The Beacon previously these were Expedited II annexations from Licking Township to Heath City. In the case of Expedited II annexations, parcels are forever simultaneously part of the city and the township, subject to the taxing authority of both the city and the township, and cannot be conformed.

Trustee President Joe Hart said the auditor’s office gave him a similar explanation, but the Licking County Prosecutor’s Office told him to forget about River Oaks being “conformed,” and to work out an annexation agreement with the City of Heath. As long as the township initiates an annexation agreement and Heath agrees to it, then River Oaks could completely separate from the township.

Hart said his research found several other properties that were also annexed to Heath under an Expedited II agreement. “If we’re going to do this for River Oaks, we should do it for the other parcels and clean this up,” he said.

The annexation agreement will cost Licking Township about $9,300 in tax revenue per year from the properties; however, Hart said quite a few people live on those properties and would likely vote against township levies if their separation request was denied.

River Oaks residents will save $67.58 per year, per $100,000 valuation of their homes now that River Oaks is separate from Licking Township.

In other township news:

• Township fiscal officer Andrea Lynch said the township received roughly $1,200 as its share of the rock salt price litigation settlement. in litigation involving rock salt prices. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine brought an antitrust lawsuit against Cargill Inc. and Morton Salt Inc. in 2012 over the price of rock salt sold to local governments for snow and ice control. The suit accusing the companies of dividing up the Ohio rock salt market and agreeing not to compete with each other for public bids during a period ending in 2010.

The state-wide settlement totalled $11.5 million. Entities in 87 Ohio counties are receiving settlement funds.

• Licking Township Fire Company Chief Mike Wilson said he plans to present trustees with plans and a budget for a new engine tanker by the next trustees meeting. Wilson said most of the cost of the new truck will be covered by a $275,000 FEMA grant. He said the township is responsible for matching five percent of the grant, or $13,750.

“We need to clarify,” Hart said, “the amount coming out of our (the township’s) funds is five percent. With the pending levy, we don’t want people to think we’re spendto ing $275,000 of levy money for a new truck.”

Wilson said the truck will cost roughly $300,000, which means the township would pay $38,750 – the $25,000 cost not covered by the grant plus $13,750 in matching funds.

• Trustees reiterated to resident Bert Blair that he needs to hire an attorney to help him gain access to property he owns roughly 400 feet off of Cristland Hills Road. Blair told trustees previously that he believed a road was platted to access the property, but he’s learned since the road was never approved, and a neighbor will not allow Blair to cross his property to reach Blair’s plot. Blair said someone at the Licking County Engineer’s Office told him he should ask the trustees for a survey.

Hart said this advice was erroneous and the issue is a civil matter. “We’re not involved in this whatsoever,” Hart said, recommending Blair hire a lawyer. “We don’t own this; we have no rights to this.” Hart said at the risk of sounding harsh, “It appears you didn’t do enough due diligence when you bought this lot.” He said the access was platted, but never turned into a road. “It is not a road,” Hart said.

Trustee Dave Miller told Blair he believes a lawyer can resolve the issue.

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