Commissioners approve Drug Mart annexation to Brunswick

by Melissa Martin

Medina County commissioners voted unanimously May 9 to approve a petition to annex Hinckley Township land to Brunswick for a new Discount Drug Mart.

The parcel, which is the site of the Buzzard’s Roost Sports Bar, is located on the east side of W. 130th Street, near the Center Road intersection. The tavern, developers said, will be demolished to make way for the new retailer.

“There is a general reluctance on our part to carve up existing boundaries, and I think that [has been] pretty clear in our discussions,” Commissioner Aaron Harrison told those in attendance for the vote. “But we’re bound by a statute that affords us very little discretion in these annexation requests.”

Harrison explained that once property owners demonstrate how the annexation would benefit them, it is up to commissioners to “find clear detriments to the immediate surrounding area that outweigh those benefits to the property owner.”

“In the absence of such detriments [as in the Discount Drug Mart case], that balancing test demands ruling in favor of the petition,” he said.

Like Harrison, Commissioner Steve Hambley expressed disappointment in having to approve the annexation. As a former Brunswick city councilman, he said he has long been a proponent of maintaining boundary lines between Hinckley and Brunswick.

“It’s a sad day to see that boundary change,” he said.

Hambley said what he finds more frustrating is that township trustees had the authority and the means to prevent the annexation. He said instead of agreeing to the tax abatement the property owner requested last spring, Trustees Monique Ascherl and Melissa Augustine cast votes denying the request, which would have granted Discount Drug Mart a 50% tax abatement for 15 years.

“It is very unfortunate that you had two elected officials that were so short-sighted and neglected the rights of the property owner to actually be able to have that benefit,” he said, adding that board members had seven months to change their minds. “But [trustees] waited until the week before we had a hearing to change their mind that the property owner could be offered tax abatement.”

By then, Hambley said, the property owner had already moved forward with the legalities and costs associated with annexing to Brunswick.

“And you can’t blame the property owners for actually pursuing that,” he said.

By annexing to Brunswick, Drug Mart will receive a 100% tax abatement for 15 years. “Frankly, the dollars and cents speak for themselves,” Discount Drug Mart representative Dan Calvin said during an April 11 hearing before county commissioners.

Anticipating annexations from Hinckley to Brunswick is the reason county officials have long promoted the establishment of a joint economic development district or a community reinvestment area along W. 130th Street, Hambley said.

He said both options would provide “the careful balance” of planning and development needed along the corridor, and because tax abatements could be awarded on both sides of the street, companies could build in the township without feeling pressured to annex to the city.

Hambley noted that both jurisdictions have mentioned the establishment of a JEDD, but Hinckley officials have long rejected the idea.

“Two former [Hinckley] trustees were friends of mine and said there was nothing in [pursuing a JEDD with Brunswick] for Hinckley,’’ he said. “Unfortunately, the question [has] come down to ‘what’s in it for Brunswick? … Sadly, what this means is that the other property owners along that corridor may otherwise be looking to Brunswick because now they have found it is basically a whole lot easier and is actually going to save them money if they develop that property to annex into the city of Brunswick.”

Hambley and Harrison encouraged township trustees, who did not speak at the commissioners’ meeting, to pursue JEDD discussions with Brunswick city officials.

“It’s going to take a little statesmanship, a little bit of people coming together for the benefit of the whole,” Hambley said, “But those discussions will help avoid future proceedings like this in the future.” ∞