CANFIELD As township develops land, city seeks new ways to grow
Township, city and school leaders explain the effects of growth.
By JEANNE STARMACK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- Growth. All communities have to have it.
New homes and new businesses mean more revenue.
Without growth, taxes will go up as costs rise with no new sources of revenue.
In southern Mahoning County, growth is coming easily to Canfield Township. New housing has taken root and spread quickly there, especially over the past 13 years, said township zoning inspector Dave Morrison.
But the city of Canfield, a community of about 7,500, doesn't have much land left to develop. It must consider other ways to grow.
Sometimes there is conflict, as the township faces what Morrison calls "the threat of annexation" from the city. If developers can annex land to the city, their developments can have city utilities. The city will grow, at a cost in land to the township.
But conflict between the city and township is not inevitable. Annexation is not the only way for the city to grow, said Charles Tieche, Canfield city manager.
And what of the school system? For more than a decade, the number of residences in the township was on its way to doubling. Are the schools getting ready to build new buildings for an explosion in student population?
No, says Superintendent Dante Zambrini, because the new housing isn't bringing in that many more pupils.
"Flatlined," is how Zambrini describes the student population in recent years. Figures show a steady growth in enrollment since 1988, when there were 2,110 pupils, until 1999, when there were 3,702. From 2000, enrollment stayed largely the same, with minor movements up or down.
Take a bedroom community that's close to highways. Add a desirable school system. Throw reasonable taxes into the mix. And you have Canfield Township, said Morrison.
He noted that in 1990, there were 2,049 residences in the township. From 1990 until present, the township added 1,112 single-family residences, with 300 multifamily and condominium starts.
People are coming because of good schools, he said.
They're coming because it's easy to catch the highways to their jobs in larger cities.
"Of 17 homes, two or three [residents] might work here," he said. But others are working in Cleveland, Akron and Pittsburgh.
And they're coming, Morrison said, "because they get more house for their money here. Taxes are lower here."
Through zoning, the township is trying to control its growth by confining traffic patterns and preserving green space.
"What we've tried to do is keep businesses condensed between state Route 11 and Tippecanoe Road," Morrison said. "We've increased the depth of business properties there but not the length. We felt if we could keep it condensed, we could keep the traffic on that corridor."
He said some township officials would also like to preserve land for parks and recreation areas. And a popular trend in housing -- planned unit developments -- uses less land for building, he said. PUDs have more homes on each acre than traditional single-family developments. Villas, best described as free-standing condominiums, are a typical feature in PUDs.
Of the township's original 16,000 acres, 13,000 acres remain, with about 6,000 of it zoned for farms. Actual working farms are about "a couple thousand acres," Morrison said.
He said that when the city of Canfield separated from the township, which occurred in 1991, the township lost acreage, and since then, annexations to the city have taken more land.
"The only thing we can do is try to stop annexation through litigation," he said.
The city of Canfield, with a population of about 7,500, is a quiet community with a gazebo gracing a charming town center and, like many other cities, not much room left to grow.
With only 100 acres of residential land and about 50 acres of commercial land left to develop, the city sees annexation as one way out of that dilemma.
But, says city manager Tieche, there are other ways. A merger could be of benefit if the city were the entity that survived, he said.
Another way for the city to grow revenues would be through an agreement called a joint economic development district, or JEDD. Tieche said that under a such a pact, the city and the township could both benefit.
Tieche said that benefits to each entity depend on what's in the agreement. The city could see more revenue from property taxes, from income taxes and from utility extensions into the township.
The township could benefit because developers there would no longer have to fight for annexation to the city to get water and sewer lines in their developments. Parts of the township do have sewer and water; the southwest corner does not.
City residences and businesses would also add to the township's tax base, Tieche said.
Tieche said there's been no specific talk of a merger or a joint economic development district in recent years.
But Paul Moracco, a township trustee, said he believes it's time to sit down and talk about a JEDD.
A merger, he said, isn't likely.
A JEDD, though, "is win-win" for a city and a township, he said. Both will benefit from tax revenues, and the township's size doesn't shrink, he said.
He said the school district would probably benefit also, because a JEDD might attract light industry and businesses that would add revenues without adding the stress of more pupils in the system.
William Reese, township trustees president, agreed.
"We need to develop some business properties in our area to support the schools," he said.
Reese said he met briefly with Tieche last week and they talked about the possibility of a joint project on industrial-zoned land in the township from Western Reserve Road to Leffingwell Road.
He said there were no specific projects mentioned.
"I just mentioned it to him we have industrial-zoned land and we could look at what we could do with it together," he said.
From the window of his office at the middle school in the city, schools Superintendent Dante Zambrini can look across the street and see two houses.
In 1851 those two houses were connected, standing as one building on the present middle school grounds. The building was cut in half and moved across the street to make way for another building, the Union School, which was built in 1867.
Canfield schools date to 1801. The schools were called borough schools before the Canfield School District formed in 1911 to serve both the city and the township.
The Union School was torn down in 1956, and for a time, the district's only school was the middle school, which was built in 1922. It has had several additions. If you started kindergarten in one-half of the building, you graduated in the other half, Zambrini said.
The district now includes the high school on Cardinal Drive and two elementary schools -- C.H. Campbell and Hilltop.
Zambrini takes pride in pointing out the significance of those two houses across the street. And having spent 31 years employed by the district, four as superintendent, he's comfortable explaining its history.
But what of the present?
For now, the district is holding its own despite cramped quarters caused by growth that is too slow to warrant a new building but still stretching the room available now.
The middle school is at capacity, Zambrini said, and the elementary schools are nearing it.
The township growth has not caused a big influx of new students, Zambrini said, because the PUD trend has attracted a lot of empty-nesters -- people with grown children who want a smaller home with less of a yard to maintain.
The people who live here but work in other cities may have children, but they aren't here in enough numbers to make a difference, he said.
Of approximately 15,300 people in the township and city, he said, only 33 percent have school-age kids.
He believes a lack of industry in the area has stalled growth.
There are some people who move to Canfield only because of the schools. Zambrini credits the district's good reputation to careful management in spending and budgeting: "We work within our resources."
He also credits the staff, and parents who get involved and volunteer at the schools.
Zambrini's observations about why people move into the area mirror Morrison's.
"People moving in here tell me taxes are very reasonable," he said. "Folks drive to Pittsburgh and Cleveland and they stay here because of more house for less money."