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Columbia Township mobilizes to fight possible annexation

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    The old Riverside Golf Course near Columbia and Sprague roads in Columbia Township.


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COLUMBIA TWP. — Township officials are taking steps to stop a proposed annexation of a vacant golf course into Olmsted Falls, including hiring an attorney who will spearhead a push to convince residents of both communities to oppose the annexation.

Columbia Township Trustee Mike Musto said he and his fellow trustees agreed Monday to hire Avon Lake attorney Gerald Phillips to lead the door-to-door effort against annexing the approximately 82-acre former Riverside Golf Club.

“We want to tell the people of Olmsted Falls the mayor is going to spend a whole lot of money,” Musto said. “Do they really want Crocker Park on Sprague Road and Columbia?”

Olmsted Falls Mayor Ann Marie Donegan, who did not return a call Tuesday, said last week that the city is examining the proposed annexation put forward by developer David Gill and other representatives of the Riverside Golf Association, which owns the land, but has yet to make a decision.

Issues being looked include what it would cost to expand city services, such as police and fire protection, into the area if annexed.

Donegan said the developer originally wanted a residential development, but the city wasn’t interested in that idea. Instead, she has said, city officials suggested a mixed-use development of residential and business similar to Westlake’s Crocker Park.

Musto said it would potentially cost the city millions of dollars to get sewers to the area as well as to improve the roads to accommodate the increased traffic a mixed-used development would bring. He said the township also voted Monday to hire infrastructure experts to figure out what would need to be done and how much it would cost.

Phillips, who once did legal work for Gill and is suing him over what he said are unpaid bills, said it appears that the developers are “shopping” for the zoning they want.

“I’m going to do everything I can to protect the township’s borders,” he said.

The township previously has rejected allowing a 151-home development to be built on the property, which sparked a lawsuit that is still pending. Musto said last week that a possible resolution to the legal dispute fell through and the developer instead requested the annexation.

The issue is expected to be reviewed by City Council later this month, although Lorain County commissioners also must sign off on the proposal.

Olmsted Falls can approve or reject the proposal, but commissioners are limited to reviewing whether the paperwork is properly done, Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes said.

The trustees sent a resolution to the commissioners after Monday’s meeting that asked the county to confirm that those involved in the partnership that owns the old golf course agreed with the annexation request.

Musto said the trustees believe that is a necessary step for the annexation to be legally approved by the commissioners. He acknowledged that even if the paperwork was done incorrectly, the developer could simply withdraw it and resubmit corrected paperwork to fix any errors.

A call seeking comment from the developer was not returned Tuesday.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.

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