HOWLAND TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – A feud of sorts has developed between the City of Niles and Howland Township over a plan by Niles to make it easier for property owners to annex from Howland into the city. Howland leaders don’t like it all and approved two measures Wednesday night to stop it.
It was a full house at the Howland Township trustees meeting. By the end of the night, there was a plan in place to fight the City of Niles.
“I would simply stay out of Niles,” said Bruce Gump, who lives in Howland. “If they want to play this game, then we’ll just have to play it back to them.”
People living in the township spoke emotionally at the trustees meeting.
“I will not sit down and take this,” one resident said. “I’m going to stand and fight.”
In November, Niles passed an ordinance saying it would be in the city’s best interest to annex parts of Weathersfield and Howland townships that border Niles and use the city’s utilities, including water, sewer and electric.
Howland Township trustees and residents don’t seem to be on board.
“It is very disheartening that the City of Niles has consciously chosen to go its own way with an aggressive, offensive attack on its neighbors,” Trustee Matthew Vansuch said.
Gump said they’re “being forced into” the annexation and they don’t want to be.
“It is a land grab and it is unacceptable. Niles should be ashamed of itself.”
The ordinance also requires properties that don’t border the city but use its utilities to enter into a development incentive agreement.
“Each of us have the right to live where we choose,” Trustee James Lapolla said. “Now we are possibly being forced to raise our families and maintain a home in a city against our constitutional right.”
Howland Township trustees ended up passing two resolutions to fight the ordinance. One authorizes a law firm out of Columbus to file legal action on the annexation. The second authorizes sending a letter, saying Howland Township no longer wants to purchase water from the City of Niles.
“Faced with this threat, Howland Township has no choice but to expend its limited resources to fight its neighbor in court,” Vansuch said.
Howland leaders all agree they are still open to an agreement with Niles because they don’t want to have to take these measures.
“This is not progress. This is not the stability that a reeling Mahoning Valley needs. This is not working together. This is extortion and it is wrong,” Vansuch said.
Niles Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz said the areas for possible annexation haven’t been picked out just yet but passing this ordinance was the first step in the process.
On Tuesday, Weathersfield Township trustees said they will join Howland in the legal action with the firm out of Columbus.