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Grafton annexation plan hits roadblock

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ELYRIA — Grafton is seeking to annex about 50 acres of land from Grafton and Eaton townships, but an Eaton Township trustee contends a long-ago court decision handed down when the Grafton Correctional Institution was built should block the annexation.

Grafton Mayor Dave DiVencenzo resubmitted the final draft of the annexation petition June 4. By law, a decision on the request should be made by the commissioners by July 10.

The annexation is for land being used for a solar park, construction of which started earlier this year. The solar park is being built on part of 790 acres the village purchased from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction in February 2018 after trying for more than two years to do so, according to previous reporting.

The farm would include roughly 17,000 sun-tracking solar panels, increasing efficiency, according to Eitri Foundry CEO Lian Niu. Niu’s firm is installing the solar park.

Eaton Township Trustee Jason Monschein challenged the annexation during a May 29 commissioners’ meeting, when the petition was introduced but not accepted. He contends that the village is prohibited from annexing the property.

In September 1988, then-Lorain County Judge Joseph Cirigliano signed a consent decree between the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Grafton and Eaton and Grafton townships, according to stories from The Chronicle-Telegram.

The townships had filed a lawsuit against the village and state when the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction asked county commissioners to annex 1,805 acres of land in Eaton and Grafton townships to the village for the construction of the Grafton Correctional Institution. The townships’ attorneys called the action a “land grab” by the village. After months of negotiation, Cirigliano had all parties come to an agreement where the townships would receive reimbursement from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction whenever their safety forces were called to the prison.

Monschein said another part of that agreement included leaving a 100-foot “buffer zone” the townships would own along their respective corporate limits.

Based on the court agreement, Monschein said Grafton shouldn’t have any right to annex the proposed land. The agreement should be honored, Monschein said, no matter how old.

“I feel that they’re taking advantage of the Ohio Revised Code about what they say about property annexation,” he said.

Monschein has spoken out against village annexation before, including challenging a narrow strip of land in 2016 to build a walking path toward Midview Schools campus.

Grafton Village Administrator Joe Price said he wouldn’t speak about the court agreement, but he did say the village will stand by the authority of the state to permit annexations.

“If someone wants to dispute (the court agreement) they can dispute that, but we will stick with the Ohio Revised Code,” he said.

A public hearing will be scheduled before the July 10 meeting in which the parties can make their cases before the commissioners. The solar park has a tentative completion date of Aug. 15 this year.

Contact Bruce Walton at (440) 329-7123 or bwalton@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Facebook @BWalton440 or Twitter @BruceWalton.

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