Commissioners annex 50 acres from Franklin Township to Kent

Amanda Garrett

Despite the objections of several Franklin Township residents, the Portage County Commissioners voted unanimously to annex 50 acres of township farmland to the city of Kent.

The former Lappin Farm, which runs along the border among Stow, Kent and Franklin Township, will become a 100-home development, Stonewater Development Owner Bob Heimann said.

Several county residents objected to the development because they believe the area, which is already prone to flooding, will become worse if a development is put on the property.

Township resident Randy Snyder said Fish Creek, which runs along the property, is already overloaded with run-off from developments in nearby Stow.

Heimann said he plans to deal with the flooding by redirecting water run-off to a lake and to a wetlands area he plans to develop on the property. Heimann said he has used this method on two of his previous developments.

“Everybody knows Johnson Road has flooded for years,” he said. “In our previous two developments, we have retained all of our water on-site – none of our water goes off-site. Unless there’s massive flooding in the area, we will be able to retain all the water.”

Franklin Township Trustee Gary Falstad said the township doesn’t want the annexation.

“Although we’re opposed to the annexation,” he said, “there isn’t anything legally we can do to stop it.”

Franklin Township resident Delbert Stewart requested the annexation be made with the stipulation that the city of Kent be responsible for any flooding or damage to adjacent properties.

“I’m asking that the city of Kent be responsible for any damage to us,” he said. “It’s being annexed as farmland, and they should be responsible if they change the use of the land.”

Commissioner Chuck Keiper said the county could not legally make such a stipulation to the Kent government. Keiper said the county is only responsible for deciding which jurisdiction the property will be governed under, not how the property will be used.

“By law, we’re only allowed to consider if it meets all the criteria,” he said. “The law says that if A, B, C and D are in place, the property can be annexed.”

Commissioner Christopher Smeiles said the commissioners had been overruled in other cases where they had refused to annex property.

“We failed to approve a case like this because it was politically correct to turn it down,” he said. “The judge overturned our decision and slapped our hands for overturning the case.”

Smeiles said the commissioners would petition the Stow City Council to do something about the water run off into Franklin Township.

“We can’t legally compel them to do anything to manage the storm water, but we can ask them to start a dialogue,” he said. “They may tell us to go pound salt, but at least we can try.”

Township resident Phyllis Zgonc, who knew the former property owner Harley Lappin, said her worst fears about the property are being realized with the development.

“Harley always said ‘You’ll never be able to see homes down there. They’ll never be able to build there,'” she said. “Now our worst nightmares are coming true. What we never wanted to see is happening to that property.”

In an earlier interview, Heimann said he asked for the annexation because Kent is better able to provide utilities, such as sewer and water.

Heimann said the development will probably be ready in about a year.

Contact public affairs reporter Amanda Garrett at [email protected].