Attorneys file arguments prior to final ruling in free-sewers case
By Ed Runyan
Two attorneys have filed arguments in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court regarding who pays for two sewer projects installed a decade ago.
The ruling challenges the constitutionality of an Ohio law that allows a developer to install sewers and later charge affected property owners a part of the cost.
An attorney for the county said the ruling puts in doubt a process that has been used to install sewers in most of the housing developments in recent county history.
County Magistrate Beth Aurilio ruled in July that residents of the Sable Creek neighborhood in Mineral Ridge and on King Graves Road in Vienna don’t have to pay for sewers installed in their neighborhoods, because they were not properly notified of them.
The magistrate said developer Gary Ventling filed a notice with the county auditor in 2004 telling the Sable Creek residents details about the sewer project 17 months after the sewer had been constructed, which the magistrate said was too late.
Atty. Thomas Nader, who represents Ventling, argues in his filing that Sable Creek residents received what is called “actual notice” of the sewer construction.
Actual notice means the residents were made aware of the project through meetings, conversations, news articles and visible signs of construction, and that is sufficient.
Atty. Frank Bodor, representing the property owners in both neighborhoods, said property owners should receive notice indicating what he or she is expected to pay for a sewer being installed in his or her neighborhood.
“In this case, [the property owners’] share of the cost was not provided to the landowners by either actual or [written] notice,” Bodor said.
Nader said the magistrate is in error in her belief that Ventling was required to file a notice telling the affected property owners their specific cost, or that there was a deadline for the notice.
“The magistrate’s decision finds 17 months after completion of construction too long but does not base that finding upon” Ohio law, Nader said.
“As is clear from the resolution involved in this case, a resolution merely recites that the property owner may install the sewer line and that costs will later be pro-rated over the length of the line installed. No costs are involved,” Nader said.
Bodor said that interpretation means the law is “unconstitutional for vagueness and lack of due process.”
Judge W. Wyatt McKay set a deadline for last Friday for the parties to file objections to Aurilio’s ruling before he gives the court’s final decision on the matter. It is not known when he will issue his ruling.