The suit says the trustees tried to stop annexation by improving a road.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- A group of township residents will be in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court next week to try to stop the trustees from improving Gibson Road.
The group -- which is called Citizens Wanting Only Responsible Development (CWORD) -- is suing the trustees in an effort to stop an improvement project on the road. The next hearing for the suit is slated for 1:30 p.m. Monday in common pleas court.
About the lawsuit: In their suit, CWORD alleges that the trustees took over Gibson Road to try and stop the city of Canfield from annexing township land. The land is at the west end of Gibson Road.
The township took control of the road from the county in February 1999.
The suit says that once trustees had control of the road, they tried to find a developer who would buy the land but not seek annexation. That developer, according to the legal action, was T.C. Quality Homes of Canfield.
The suit also states, however, that T.C. Quality Homes wouldn't agree to keep the land in the township unless Gibson Road was improved.
In March 2000, trustees Paul Moracco, William Weaver and Judy Bayus voted unanimously to install waterlines and sewer lines on the road. The road also would be widened to 20 feet under the improvement project.
The township would spend $250,000 on the improvements. The rest of the $525,000 project would be paid for with state grants.
In late April, T.C. Quality Homes broke ground on Westbury Park, a 140-unit development that is being constructed at the west end of Gibson Road.
Seeking an injunction: The CWORD suit asks the court to grant an injunction that would prevent the trustees from improving the road. The group contends the trustees violated several sections of the Ohio Constitution by deciding to improve the road for T.C. Quality Homes.
A section of the constitution prevents the state from providing credit to or assuming the debt of a corporation.
"To me, they don't have a leg to stand on," Weaver said. He said the trustees decided to improve the road for the benefit of all township residents, not to prevent annexation.
Ronald Knickerbocker, attorney for CWORD, did not return calls seeking comment.
Gibson Road homeowners, including those in Westbury Park, are expected to re-pay the township for the improvements through waterline and sewer line tap-in fees.
The standard sewer tap-in fee for a three-bedroom house is $1,300. The standard fee for a four-bedroom house is $1,462.
The residents would not be required to tap into the waterline. The standard tap-in fee for a waterline is $650.
Chris Abraham, vice president of T.C. Quality Homes, said he expects Westbury Park to open early next year.