Summit Metro Parks hopes to annex Twinsburg into park district

City would be last in county to be annexed

Ken Lahmers
Correspondent
Summit Metro Parks is hoping to annex the city of Twinsburg into its taxing district after the expiration of a city bond issue used to purchase the 900 acre Twinsburg Ledges area, now part of Liberty Park managed by the county park district. The city and park district have partnered in developing the park area, including the $3 million Liberty Park Nature Center, pictured.

TWINSBURG – The city would be the last community in Summit County to be added to the county park district, if the county probate court agrees to an annexation petition Summit County Metro Parks is preparing to bring to the court in coming weeks.

If the court grants the park district's request, city residents would have to pay a 2-mill property tax starting in 2022, just after a bond issue city residents approved 20 years ago to purchase much of Liberty Park expires.

At a finance committee meeting prior to City Council’s Aug. 25 session, Finance Director Sarah Buccigross said she received a notice Aug. 14 about the Metro Parks’ intention to collect signatures to include the city in the levy district. The notice came from Metro Parks Executive Director Lisa King.

According to King, 50 signatures are needed to petition the county probate judge for a decision on whether the city would be annexed. The public would have an opportunity to speak about the matter before the judge decides.

It was noted the annexation process is not subject to a vote by Twinsburg residents, and the tax revenue from Twinsburg residents would go for Metro Parks operations.

Metro Parks Finance Chief Dale Forbean explained the 2 mills would cost a property owner about $61 a year per $100,000 of valuation.

King said Twinsburg is the only community not in the levy district because former city officials and the parks district agreed not to bring the city into the district until the $10 million worth of bonds were paid off so that residents would not be taxed twice.

Metro Parks spokesperson Stephanie Walton later told the Twinsburg Bulletin that at the time Liberty Park was purchased, only Reminderville, Twinsburg Township and the city of Twinsburg had not been added to the county park district's taxing jurisdiction. Prior to that, the last community to be annexed was Hudson in the early 1970s.

"In the early 2000s, Reminderville and Twinsburg Township were annexed at their own request," Walton said. "Had there not been a partnership with the city of Twinsburg to develop Liberty Park, it's likely the city would have been annexed at that time as well."

Walton said the park district completed gathering the 50 signatures it needed last week. The district board of commissioners must take final action before the petition is sent to the probate court for a hearing and decision.

Under the Ohio Revised Code, any territory adjacent and contiguous to an existing park district may be annexed to a park district after the board of park commissioners receives a petition and determines the annexation should be made.

If the board determines in favor of such annexation, it shall make application to the probate court, explaining the reasons. Under state law, the judge has the authority to authorize the annexation if the judge finds it benefits the general welfare.

Buccigross said the city will keep residents informed as to when the hearing before the judge takes place.

According to Summit County Board of Elections records, the 1.68 mill, 20-year bond issue to purchase the 900-acre Twinsburg Ledges area was approved overwhelmingly by city voters 2,664 to 1,214 in November 1999.

The property is the centerpiece of a 3,000-acre stretch of parkland and preserve that extends around five miles from the northeast side of Twinsburg to the southern part of Tinkers Creek State Nature Preserve in Streetsboro.

Although the city owns the Twinsburg Ledges property and operates recreational facilities off Post Road, the park district has added property to the park boundaries, built a $3 million nature center and manages the undeveloped parkland under an agreement negotiated by former Mayor Kathi Procop.

Contact the newspaper at 330-541-9433, or twinsburgbulletin@recordpub.com