The residents group maintains that the project is a loan to a local developer.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- The future of the Gibson Road improvement project is to be determined by a judge in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Visiting Judge Mary Caccioppo is expected to issue a decision in the next few weeks on a request to stop township trustees from improving the road. The request came in the form of a lawsuit filed by a group called Citizens Wanting Only Responsible Development. The members include families from 22 of the 27 homes on Gibson Road.
The improvement project calls for installation of water and sewer lines along the road. The road also would be widened to 20 feet.
Group's argument: The group contends in court documents that the trustees endorsed the improvement project so a developer would not annex land at the end of the road to the city of Canfield. That developer, T.C. Quality Homes of Canfield, is building a 140-unit development at the west end of Gibson Road.
As a result, the group contends, the improvement project qualifies as a loan to T.C. Quality Homes. The Ohio Constitution does not allow townships to loan money to private institutions.
"If you could do that, everybody in the township would be at the trustees' saying, 'Hey, lend me some money,' " said Ronald Knickerbocker, the group's attorney. "I think it's a pretty clear-cut case."
Response: Township Trustee William Weaver said the money would not be a loan to T.C. Quality Homes. Instead, he said, the money would pay for improvements that would benefit all homes on the road.
"We need water and utilities down there," he said.
The improvement project is expected to cost about $800,000. Some $525,000 would be raised through state grants; the remaining $250,000 would come from the township, which would eventually be repaid through tap-in fees for the water and sewer lines.
Mark Finamore, the township's legal counsel, added that state statutes give the township the authority to pay for the project.