Annexation pact proves attitude of cooperation
While we strongly opposed Niles Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz’s annexation plan to manipulate the city’s neighbors by forcing annexation, we are pleased to see cooler heads prevailed and a new plan has been laid out to everyone’s satisfaction.
The city of Niles in 2019 passed legislation requiring annexation of properties outside the city that use city utilities or risk losing reasonable utility rates.
The ordinance set off a firestorm among adjacent townships and residences along the borders. Yard signs protesting annexation attempts could be seen dotting the landscape in areas of Weathersfield, Howland and Vienna.
Debates on the topic of annexation came to a head at one point when a new owner took over a McKinley Heights property in Weathersfield Township in 2020 and found his electricity turned off. Niles had argued in order to purchase electricity from the city, the new business owner would have to annex into the city.
Mientkiewicz has been clear in his motivations.
“As I said before, we are going to look at our contiguous boundaries and try to grow the city,” Mientkiewicz told us at the time. He said the city recognized established businesses that have been using city utilities, but when property transfers happen and new businesses move in, the city does intend to annex or reach a development incentive agreement.
While we often promote the importance of regionalization, we saw this scenario as just the opposite of regionalization and economic development.
Last week, however, Niles officials exhibited a spirit of cooperation and a willingness to work with neighbors.
Officials from Howland, Niles and Vienna on Friday announced a tentative agreement on the proposed annexation of a 31-acre property at the intersection of Stillwagon and Niles-Vienna roads and also addressed long-term relationships among the parties.
Under the agreement, the townships will not object to the pending 31-acre annexation to Niles, and the city agrees that existing customers of its utility services will not be required to annex into the city or enter into a development-incentive agreement in order to continue receiving the utility service(s) from the city.
Officials said Niles will service existing utility customers in the townships who want to receive a new utility service from the city and review the process for addressing future requests for annexation into the city.
Mientkiewicz said the agreement is for 20 years, with automatic renewals at five-year intervals, unless the city and the townships all agree to end the agreement.
“The position of the city since the inception of the ordinance has been to allow for community growth and stabilization, while following state annexation laws,” Mientkiewicz said. “The ordinance allows my administration to determine what is in the best interest of the city of Niles, and forced residential annexation is not that, hence the reason why not a single residential township utility customer has been forced to annex.”
Mietkiewicz added that the collaboration will allow individual communities and property owners to prosper, and he promised to continue to work with surrounding elected officials and developers to benefit Niles and Trumbull County.
Likewise officials from Howland and Vienna said they were comfortable they had reached the best agreement possible within Ohio law and that will bring residents’ peace of mind.
Constituents must have confidence that their elected officials are working together in the best interest of their community and of the county. We commend these elected officials for living up to those expectations, and we also extend a “high five” to Trumbull County commissioners for agreeing to give these government officials the necessary time to accomplish this goal, even if it meant delaying several scheduled public hearings on the annexation request during the negotiation process.