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Yellow Creek watershed advocates move forward

4/20/2017 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

GREATER AKRON — Organizers who are seeking to create the Yellow Creek Watershed Conservancy District submitted their petitions with signatures to Summit County Common Pleas Court April 12.

The submission of signatures came after Richfield Village Council passed a resolution opposing the effort April 4, and some local residents have gone to local trustee and council meetings to express their opposition to it. In addition, Citizens for Yellow Creek, a group that has expressed its opposition to the conservancy, met April 17 to discuss its efforts.

Brenda McShaffrey, a Bath resident who is heading up the Yellow Creek Foundation’s efforts to create the district because of flooding concerns, said 500 signatures were required to submit the petitions to the courts. She said the group submitted around 639 signatures from residents who live in the proposed watershed district. The case has been assigned to Judge Alison Breaux’s court, McCaffrey added.

Creation of the conservancy district would allow a fee to be assessed to all property owners in the district, with collected funds to be used for projects that could reduce water flow and enhance ground absorption. According to the foundation, a conservancy district is a political subdivision in the State of Ohio that is allowed under Ohio Revised Code. The regional governments are established on a watershed basis to deal with water resource issues that extend across city, township and county boundaries.

According to a map of the watershed, the proposed district in the West Side Leader coverage area would include areas of Bath, Richfield, Fairlawn, Copley, West Akron and Cuyahoga Falls in western Summit County and Granger and Sharon in eastern Medina County.

According to the foundation, after Breaux determines the validity of the petitions, she must notify the court in Medina County, which would assign a judge there to the conservancy court. The two judges would hold public meetings on the official plan and any proposed assessments, and the court would evaluate all legal matters relating to the district. McShaffrey said she couldn’t say how long this process could take.

If the district is approved, the court would appoint three people to be on its board of directors, and they would administer the day-to-day operations of the district. The board also would be allowed to assess properties in the district up to 3 mills to fund a two-year study, the first step in the process.

Among those who are against the creation of the district is Amy Bowers, of Bath, who said Citizens for Yellow Creek was created to look at all the options before moving forward on the conservancy.

“That one didn’t sit right with a lot of people,” she said. “It’s taxation without representation; that really is the big thing. There’s not much oversight, and the township is pretty powerless to do anything. We think there probably is a better way.”

She added that those in opposition have also tried to get more information from the conservancy proponents but have not gotten a response.

Mark Spisak, a member of the Yellow Creek Foundation board, said he has not heard much about those in opposition, but he believes they are mostly against having another layer of government.

“They agree there’s a problem — there’s common ground there,” Spisak said. “[Forming the conservancy] seemed to be the most productive mechanism.”

Bowers said the opposition doesn’t know if there’s any agreement because of the lack of response.

“We probably do have common ground, but we don’t have enough information on what yet,” she said.

Adding to the issue is the recent announcement from the Summit County Engineer’s Office of a proposed surface water management district. One key to the proposal is that money raised within a municipality would be spent on projects benefiting that municipality, according to the Engineer’s Office. Communities would also have the option to participate in the program.

McShaffrey said the Yellow Creek Foundation is also embarking on an educational outreach program in local preschools that kicked off this week to tie into Earth Day. Volunteers from the group were set to visit Childtime in Fairlawn, Kindercare in Fairlawn and Richfield and the Godard School in Bath this week. Other preschools participating in future weeks are Faith Lutheran Preschool in Fairlawn and LeChaperon Rouge in Bath.

For more information on the Yellow Creek Foundation, go to www.yellowcreekfoundation.org. For more on Citizens for Yellow Creek, contact Bowers at abowers27@roadrunner.com or 330-958-3959.

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