Canal Winchester money dispute

A financial disagreement is still festering between Groveport Road landowner Richard "Pete" Stebelton and the village of Canal Winchester

The dispute comes nearly a year after the Franklin County Common Pleas Court handed down a decision in favor of Stebelton regarding a disagreement between him and the village  over land for a proposed bike path.

Stebelton appeared at Canal Winchester Village Council’s Sept. 2 meeting to seek council’s support in resolving ongoing negotiations regarding money he feels he is still owed by the village. Stebelton is seeking reimbursement for money he had to spend, primarily legal fees and other related bills, to fight the village’s effort to enact an eminent domain action on part of Stebelton’s property to allow for the construction of a bicycle path.

"I spent $63,000 to fight the eminent domain," said Stebelton, who said the village is only willing to pay him back around $50,000.

"I was just protecting myself. I’m not paying this out of my pocket," said Stebelton. "I’m not looking to get an extra penny out of all this. It’s all an aggravation."

Canal Winchester Law Director Gene Hollins told council that negotiations are ongoing in an effort to resolve the issue. He said the sticking point is the $13,000 difference in what Stebelton feels he is still owed and what village officials feel they are obligated to pay.

Hollins said the $13,000 difference consists of attorney fees and other related bills that the village believe pre-date the eminent domain action and therefore are not part of any settlement. Hollins said negotiations will continue, but if an agreement is not reached the matter may eventually end up in a court hearing for a resolution.

Stebelton stated he could consider suing the village for the $13,000 but said that would be futile because, "I’d end up spending $20,000 just to get back $13,000."

Council appeared sympathetic to Stebelton, but decided to let the negotiations continue.

Background of the disagreement

The proposed bike path would have extended from the Canal Winchester swimming pool  west along Groveport Road, the former Ohio and Erie Canal path, and Scioto Valley Traction Line right of way, eventually meeting up with the village of Groveport’s nature bike path at Rager Road. However, that project is now on hold.

In May 2006, Canal Winchester fixed its offering price for the 2.1 acre parcel, located on the northern edge of Stebelton’s 80-acre property, at $9,249, including any damage to residual land, and decided to file a petition in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court to take the property under eminent domain because the village was unable to reach an agreement with Stebelton.

Following the May meeting, Stebelton said a previous Canal Winchester administration offered him $60,000 for an easement for the bike path.

The Franklin County Common Pleas Court ruled that Stebelton’s 2.1 acre parcel was worth $37,000. It also dealt a blow to the joint ODOT and Canal Winchester project by determining the village’s proposed bike path would close off a back entrance to Stebelton’s land, thus creating $558,625 in damages to Stebelton.

By bringing the total cost to nearly $600,000-a large increase above Canal Winchester’s original offer for the land of more than $9,200-the proposed bike path remains on the back burner.

Gender Road/Winchester Boulevard

Council approved an ordinance to seek financial assistance from SCIP/LTIP for funding for infrastructure improvements at Gender Road and Winchester Boulevard.

According to village officials there have been 143 accidents at this intersection between Jan. 1, 2005 and July 19, 2008. It’s estimated 22,000 vehicles pass through the intersection daily. Proposed improvements could include additional turn lanes and through lanes as well as traffic signal changes.

Trash fee increase

Waste Management informed the village the monthly rate for trash pick up will increase 44 cents to $9,19 per month.

Also, a fuel surcharge percentage will also be added based on "unusual changes in the cost of operations," according to Waste Management. The fuel charge calculation will be linked to the national average price of diesel fuel as reported by the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Both changes will be effective Oct. 1.

Messenger Staff Writer Linda Dillman contributed to this story.

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