By Megan Alley
The Clermont County Commissioners approved the annexation of 53.566 acres of land in Pierce Township to the village of Amelia during their regular session on April 5.
The land, which is owned by Glen Mary Partners, LLC and James H. Grimes, is located on state Route 125/Main Street, across the street from Woodlands Drive.
On May 1, the Pierce Township trustees officially appealed the commissioners’ decision to the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas, with Trustee Alan Freeman citing at the April 12 trustee meeting that, “The way they went about the annexation, they left it in Pierce. We still have the opportunity to do the TIF [tax increment financing]. We’re rushing to get the TIF in place, so that it’s our TIF. That’s what we’re strategically trying to do.”
The trustees approved a TIF on the property during their May 5 meeting.
The end in mind with this TIF, Freeman then said, is the development of that property and to get Amelia on the phone.
“We still have jurisdiction over the property until transfer has taken place, and we have a right to put a TIF on the property as we sit fit,” he said, and the TIF will stay in place even after. “In the long-term, worst case scenario, it gives us a negotiating chip to deal with the village of Amelia.”
“My hope is, my personal hope is, is we put this in place and it allows us a point of negotiation,” Freeman said. “In order to relieve the TIF, they’re going to have to pick up the phone.”
Representatives for Premier Health Care Management have expressed interest in building a $15 to $20 million-dollar nursing home/rehabilitation facility on the property, but no formal plans have been presented to village officials, according to the village of Amelia Mayor Todd Hart.
Freeman said he and Hart had planned a meeting with the landowner and the developer of the nursing home ahead of the commissioners meeting, but neither was interested.
“So that again flies in the face of the notion you reached out to us, you worked with us and we just couldn’t work out a deal with you,” Freeman said. “You gotta work with me in order to get a deal with me.”
Also at the April 12 trustees meeting, the lawyer for Pierce Township, Tom Keating, alluded to the fact that Amelia was threatening to cutoff connectivity to the property from Pierce Township.
“There’s no question that to get to 125, it has to go through the Amelia part of this property and we feel that it’s just not right, it’s just not fair – that it’s not legal to say to somebody you can’t have access to 125 as state roadway,” he said.
Additionally, part of the bigger issue, according to Keating, is the mutual aid between the village of Amelia and Pierce Township, particularly regarding that property.
“Mutual aid in that case is nowhere near mutual,” he said.
Pierce Township Police Chief Jeff Bachman said the police department has been in Amelia, assisting and helping the police department in the village; in 2015 they assisted 64 times, in 2016 they assisted 99 times and in January 2017, they assisted nine times, Bachman said.
“Each time, of course, that we go to Amelia or to any other jurisdiction, it takes officers away from Piece Township,” Bachman said, adding that it’s still the right thing to do because of the dangerous job.
Amelia offers less assistance to Pierce Township, but the village of Amelia also has fewer officers, Bachman added.
Hart responded to the complaints during a phone interview with The Clermont Sun on May 18.
“The location of the property, it’s in the center of Amelia. It makes no sense for that property to not be in the village,” Hart said. “The economic value to the village, we have to, in order to make things work there, we need to put an intersection, a light and a roadway, and the only way we can do that is to TIF the project that’s going in there.”
He added, “Ultimately, it benefits Pierce and Amelia…. New commercial development benefits the whole area.”
According to Hart, the owners of the property were the ones who requested the annexation.
“In my opinion, it’s their constitutional right to ask for it,” he said. “We did not go to them, they came to us. So, I don’t want the misconception that we went to them because we did not.”
Regarding accusations that representatives from Pierce Township haven’t been able to get Amelia on the phone, Hart said no one has said a word to him about that.
“Not one word,” he said.
He went on to note that, “I can say, it’s 53.2 acres, is all it is. If Pierce Township is needing that 53.2 acres to survive, then they have some serious financial issues.”
Hart also addressed the claim that Amelia is blocking access to the property.
“We have never denied access to that property,” he said. “They’re trying to paint that picture; that’s just not a true picture.”
Hart also addressed the accusations about a lack of balance in mutual aid.
“It’s very appalling how they handled themselves, basically going after the fire and police,” he said. “That’s just not right, because both entities are equal.”
He added, “Just the way they did that, we don’t make personal attacks, obviously. I’m sure, whether it be Pierce, whether it be Amelia, whether it be Union Township, we all feel, and I feel that, each one of those departments are just as good as the other.”
Hart hopes that all the contention does not dissuade development on the contested property from moving forward.
“I just hope that by them doing what they’re doing, it’s not going to make that development go away. Then, it’s a lose-lose for both of us,” he said.
Currently, officials from Amelia are determining what step they’ll take next in this process.