Developers aren't required to have trustees' approval to install utility lines in the right of way.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- A local developer is moving ahead with a plan to install a waterline on Gibson Road in Canfield Township without money or approval from township trustees.
Employees of a contractor hired by TC Quality Homes of Canfield began installing the waterline in the right of way along the road earlier this week.
The company is building a 140-unit development at the west end of Gibson Road, which runs west from state Route 46.
Chris Abraham, vice president for TC Quality Homes, said public money is not being used for the project. He wouldn't reveal its cost.
Abraham said the waterline was needed to service those moving into the new homes at the west end of Gibson Road.
Canfield Township doesn't require developers to have trustees' approval to install utility lines in the right of way, nor do developers have to post a bond to pay for repairs to public streets damaged during installation of a utility line.
Trustees were planning to pay for some of the installation of the waterline, as well as for the widening and resurfacing of Gibson Road. They estimated that project would have cost $525,000.
In March 2000, they voted to pay for part of the project using $250,000 in township money. The rest of the money was to come from state grants.
What happened next: Before the money was spent, however, a group of Gibson Road residents filed a lawsuit asking a judge to stop the project. In the lawsuit, filed in May 2000, the residents contended that trustees had entered into an agreement with TC Quality Homes to install the waterline for the company's housing development.
In October 2001, visiting Judge Mary Cacioppo ruled in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court that the trustees' plans violated a section of the state constitution prohibiting public officials from lending money to a private corporation. Trustees have appealed Cacioppo's decision.
Trustee Paul Moracco said he had heard rumors that TC Quality Homes was going to install the waterline without public money. He confirmed those rumors last week by calling the Youngstown Water Department.
That department maintains all public waterlines in Mahoning County. On Tuesday, water department employees installed a tap on the state Route 46 water main for the Gibson Road project.
What's scheduled: Moracco said he expects to discuss the township's policy regarding utility lines in the right of way at Monday's trustees meeting, which will be at 7:30 p.m. in the township hall.
He noted that TC Quality Homes is the first developer that he knows that has installed a utility line in a public right of way.
Most developers have installed utility lines in the right of way along a private street leading to the site of their homes, Moracco said. The utility lines then become public property when the private streets are turned over to the township.
Moracco noted that he was pleased the waterline would be installed.
Road Supervisor Gary Cook described the Gibson Road project as a "new and unique situation for us." He added that he didn't know whether the township is responsible for the right of way.
Mahoning County Engineer Richard Marsico said the trustees became responsible for the right-of-way in the late 1990s, when the county gave the township the responsibility of maintaining the road.
Abraham said he expects the Gibson Road project to be complete in the next few weeks. He also said that Gibson Road residents can tap into the waterline by paying TC Quality Homes a fee.
That fee has not been set.