December 19, 2014

Medina
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Montville Township homeowners left with tax bill

Dan Pompili and David Knox | The Gazette

MONTVILLE TWP. — Township trustees are working with county Auditor Mike Kovack to resolve delinquent taxes owed on land set aside as green space in the Cobblestone Park housing development.

About $53,000 in back property taxes were owed on two parcels — totaling about 24 acres — when they were transferred by the developer, Cobblestone Park LLC, to the homeowners association in 2007.

The two parcels are 14.5 acres that run along the back of the development between Highland Green Drive and Highland Meadows Drive and behind Pebble Court and Brownstone Lane and 9.69 acres between River Rock Way, Highland Meadows Drive and Cobblestone Park Drive.

Although nothing can be built on the parcels because they are green space required by township zoning codes, the taxes are owed because the land had been farmland enrolled in the state’s Current Agricultural Use Value program.

The CAUV program allows farmland to be taxed according to its agricultural production rather than market sales value. But when property is taken out of the CAUV program, three years’ worth of prior tax savings must be paid.

But the developer didn’t pay the back taxes before the parcels were deeded over to the Cobblestone Park Homeowners Association in 2007.

The homeowners association didn’t pay the taxes and the county went to court to foreclose on the property in May 2013.

Kovack said he understood why the homeowners weren’t willing to pick up the old tax bill.

“They rightfully balked when handed property with delinquent taxes that should have been handled by the developer,” Kovack said.

Township Trustee Jeff Brandon agreed the developer should have paid the back taxes.

“That was always our understanding,” he said.

Township trustees met Thursday to discuss the issue and are hoping to resolve the problem by taking advantage of an Ohio law that allows townships to reclaim land for the public interest after it has failed to sell twice at a sheriff’s auction.

The law recently was used by Lafayette Township trustees to acquire three dilapidated houses on Chippewa Road so they could be torn down with state money.

Brandon said after the township acquires the two Cobblestone parcels, the trustees would deed the land to the Cobblestone Homeowners Association.

“We want to help the residents obtain these parcels that belong to them as common green space,” Brandon said.

Kovack agreed: “This is the way we can get the property back into the right hands.”

The auditor said it’s not likely anyone will bid on the property at sheriff’s sale.

“It has no real value to anyone but them because it can’t be developed,” he said.

Brandon said the township needs to make sure the problem of back taxes on green space doesn’t happen when other home subdivisions are built.

“We do need to oversee these transfers to the homeowners associations to be sure they are not transferred with delinquent taxes,” he said.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.
Contact David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com.