Council seeks to end Dysar Ditch dispute

Reynoldsburg City Council’s Finance Committee will recommend to council at its Dec. 8 meeting that the city not pay for repairs to correct erosion problems along private property adjacent to Dysar Ditch.

The city, however, is looking into implementing a program in which the private property owners could repay the city for the repair costs through their property taxes.

Reynoldsburg resident Raymond Lynch contends that if nothing is done, Dysar Ditch will continue to erode his back yard, causing his house and his neighbor’s to possibly fall to the bottom of the ravine.

In that situation, the city of Reynoldsburg would have to pay to remove the house just as it currently pays to remove fallen trees that block the waterway, city attorney Jed Hood said at the Dec. 1 city council financial committee meeting.

However, Hood said the city should not pay to fix the erosion problem because it involves Lynch’s private property and not city land.

"The mayor and I and the city auditor are in agreement," Hood said. "We don’t feel comfortable funding the project. When we spend public money we must make sure it is for a public purpose benefiting a public landowner."

Reynoldsburg received a quote of $65,000 from a contractor who can save Lynch’s house, but city officials want Lynch to pay the tab.

On Dec. 8, the council will vote whether to hire the contractor, and members will vote whether to send the bill to Lynch and his neighbor Robert Schwartz.

"I support funding the project through special assessment in which the citizens would pay back public money through their property taxes," Hood said.

"It is a mechanism for government to do projects benefiting a limited number of people as opposed to using the storm water utility money to collect from the entire city," Hood said.

Funding the project with storm water money is a "slippery slope," Hood said.
When the city began collecting "storm water utility fees, it did not contemplate a project of this magnitude," Hood continued.

Other people may want the city to fix their properties and to sustain the fund, citizens would have to pay higher rates, Hood said.

Council member Doug Joseph approves of "passing the assessment program. They can pay over years and it won’t bankrupt the city."

Council member Leslie Kelly argued for the city to pay for the repair costs because she said the erosion resulted from storm water added from new developments north of Broad Street.

Although city staff members have not been able to provide flow rates to the council, Kelly said the "amount of water obviously increased" since the time when Lynch bought his home.

Dysar Ditch no longer meets the city’s "definition of a ditch – an open channel with intermittent flow," Kelly said. "Dysar Ditch flows continuously."

Kelly also said that the city added to the problem when it stopped the ditch from eroding a property on Instone Drive and redirected the stream directly toward Lynch’s home.

Hood said the city engineer "disagrees with Councilwoman Kelly’s assertion that diverting the flow increased the erosion rate. The increased amount of water is due to development to our north in Columbus."

The city engineer could not be reached for comment before press time.
Councilman Fred Deskins Jr. asked why the city paid to save the Instone property, but won’t help Lynch.

Hood said that from his research, the reason the city corrected the erosion to the Instone property was that "a city employee made a commitment and the (former) mayor chose to do the project. This mayor does not choose to do the project. If the mayor is not in favor, he has the right to say ‘no.’ It’s his priority to pick and choose."

Deskins said the city staff has not provided flow rate numbers, but with "what answers have been given (I conclude) let’s fix the house."

Council member Ron Stake said the situation calls for drastic measures.

"If we do nothing, the house will fall in the creek and plug the creek," Stake said. "Mr. Lynch will abandon the property and how are we going to remove the house?"

Hood said it would be unlikely that. Lynch would "fail to do something." However, if he did allow his house to fall into the creek, the city would recoup the clean-up costs through Lynch’s homeowner’s insurance.

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