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10-Mile Creek ripoff

Lucas County combined with Fulton County is taking a nasty money and property rights grab.

A postcard from the Joint Board of Fulton and Lucas County Commissioners, c/o Lucas County Engineer, 1049 S. McCord Road, Holland Ohio mailed to 71,000 addresses:  “Ditch improvement notice — hearings on the TenMile Creek Watershed for a Joint-County Ditch Petition filed by Spencer Township on March 20, 2021 — 

“All costs of engineering, construction, and future maintenance will be assessed to the benefiting parcels of land…” 

Lucas County wants a new tax on 117,554 Lucas County homeowners for a new ditch improvement petition that covers Lucas and Fulton Counties.

We called about the above ditch improvement notice and spoke to Jay Mosley, the Lucas County Stormwater Program Manager, who told us this:

“At this point, we do not have a project identified nor are we making any assessments to any of the parcel owners, this is just to start the process.” 

“The county doesn’t have permission to go in and work on private property, so we are setting it up.”

This process allows us to spread the cost of any projects we would do…to all of the parcels in the watershed that contribute runoff that would ultimately get to the ditches and creeks and streams.” 

“We are not proposing any projects at this point, this is just to have a mechanism in place so that when we do identify a project that has a critical need, we can come up with a cost and then spread the cost over all of the parcels in the watershed.”

We are looking at places where there are ditches that need some maintenance that have been filled up with sediment and have some trees down, we certainly would not disturb nice natural habitat.”

“We are proposing to spread the assessments out over everyone in the northern part of the county and city of Toledo, even to Fulton county.”

“We don’t have a project identified.”

“We can’t go on to private property and do it without this mechanism.”

Diggers in waiting, in the early morning mist.

Rivers and ditches have always been the responsibility of the property owners. Ditches along county roads are the responsibility of the county, and tax funds are already allocated for those ditches, as are ditches created after 1957. Without this tax increase petition, river, creek and ditch maintenance on private property would remain the responsibility of the property owners, which Lucas County tells us in their FAQ’s.

Individual property owners have always taken care of their rivers, creeks and ditches, as it is on their property, but now the counties want access to all property on the 10-Mile Creek-Ottawa River Watershed, and also the Swan Creek Watershed.

With the passing of this assessment, property owners will be giving the counties blanket permission to bulldoze through their property for any and all future river, ditch or pond project, and they will be paying for it forever.

Without the passage of this assessment, the county does not have the absolute right to tear through private property. What they do have now is a limited utility access, as delineated on the maps on Areis (Lucas County property database.) If the county needs more, it has to get permission, and they have to repair any damage they incur with their bulldozers. The county now wants the absolute right to tear through our property, carte blanche.

The watershed and flow of water is like breathing air; it’s a fact of life, — it’s not a benefit. But the list of so-called Lucas County “benefiting parcels” in the 10-Mile Creek and Swan Creek watersheds total 117,554 homeowners, most of Toledo and all of Ottawa Hills and Sylvania!
Out of these 117,554 homeowners, maybe a total of ten or fifteen families actually have 10-Mile Creek running through their property. In Toledo, Sylvania, and Ottawa Hills, most of the land adjacent to 10-Mile Creek is owned by the various municipalities and parks, as will be shown below. But 117,554 Lucas County homeowners are hereby petitioned to bear the brunt of cleaning up twigs or dredging a ditch in Fulton or Henry County and while doing so, grant Lucas County the perpetual right to bulldoze through their private property whenever the county wants to and for whatever reason the county dreams up in the future, while Lucas County gets to raise taxes on 117,554 homeowners forever.
The pattern of the rise and fall of the floodplain, on which we live, has not changed during the the many years we have lived on it. I have also observed the floodplains of Ottawa Hills for over 50 years, and they seem the the same as always. Our delicate watershed on which we live should not be disturbed by the county engineer.
In all of the county website information (see below for links) they have not even shown one good reason why they should be granted a tax assessment that could possibly disturb our ecology — we have floodplains, and our floodplains haven’t changed in the past 50 years, and our floodplains are working just fine now. Should the EPA be involved in this proposal that concerns our delicate watershed? We are just not convinced that there is a problem that needs to be fixed here. The county shows us no issues.
10-Mile Creek – Ottawa River watershed area (click to enlarge)
What about the River Raisin Watershed in Michigan, connected to the Ottawa River Watershed? Are they going to get them to pay, too?
The Ohio Watershed — why not think big, politicians and money-grabbers!

Why us?

could this have something to do with it…

The vast majority of parcels containing 10-Mile Creek, that are really “benefiting” from 10-Mile Creek are owned by entities such as the City of Sylvania, the Franciscan Sisters, The Boy Scouts, the Metro Parks, the Village of Ottawa Hills, the University of Toledo, the City of Toledo, and the Lucas County Port Authority, who all happen to be Lucas County tax exempt from any assessment made to “improve” the 10-Mile Creek running through their property. (see these major 10-Mile Creek parcel owners here)

Taxpayers are already paying for a lot of the maintenance of the “watershed” because 1. these entities listed above get tax breaks that we make up for by paying more tax, 2. we pay taxes that support many, if not all, of these entities, and 3. the many grants available for river and ditch projects, much of which comes from our tax money!

It’s been the responsibility of the landowners all throughout the history of landownership (going back, no doubt, hundreds and thousands of years and probably based on the Magna Carta and old Roman law, if not the common law of cavemen) to tidy up their own rivers, creeks and ditches.

In Toledo, that’s exactly what they do — property owners care for the rivers and creeks on their land — those conscientious Franciscan nuns, the rich golf-course owners, the well-funded-by-our-taxes metro park maintenance departments, the well-endowed University of Toledo, the rich Village of Ottawa Hills, the cities of Toledo and Sylvania with their maintenance crews and dedicated water departments, and the very few lucky private owners of the eastern and most populated half of the parcels that contain such waterways.  These stewards of the river are more than happy to be good caretakers of the water that flows over their land. They’ve been doing it ever since human beings have populated the planet. We don’t see them petitioning the residents of the counties of Lucas and Fulton Jointly to get the government to take this burden off of them.

Bringing this petition are two people who live in Holland, Ohio: Michael B. Hood of 630 N. Meilke Rd. (who lives at Spencer Township Hall, aside of Drennan Ditch, which is over-run with trees and brush. Why don’t they clean up their own ditch? They seriously want us to do it for them? Why should we have to clean their ditch? –

Drennan Ditch between N. Meilke Rd. and S. Raab Rd. This ditch is actually part of the Swan Creek Watershed, so why are these Spencer Township folks (who BTW actually do not own property in Lucas County as far as I can see, according to the AREIS parcel owner database) petitioning parcel owners of the 10-Mile Creek Watershed? So many details of this petition are weird and strange.

– Oh! I see that Lucas County IS cleaning up their ditch presently — 2.25 miles of it, and it is costing $200,000 and is funded by Great Lakes Commission’s Great Lakes Sediment and Nutrient Reduction Program…) and Shawn P. Valentine, of 9545 Frankfort Rd. (a neighbor who lives around the corner, a property which is also on Drennan Ditch, see photo on left, on the part that is getting cleaned right now. On Areis, Valentine is not identified as the owner of the listed address, just as Michael Hood is not the owner of the Spencer Township Hall.) These two petitioners, who actually live who knows where – they are not Lucas County parcel owners, attached the names and addresses of 74,644 parcel owners in Lucas and Fulton counties, petitioning them to pay for any and all ditch and creek clean-up projects they can dream up within a broad geographic reach.

There is also a petition for the Swan Creek Watershed for another 49,005 parcel owners, adding up to 123,649 total parcel owners who will be stuck with an assessment — 117,554 who live in Lucas County.

The petitions, both having the same exact language, site no problems, nothing specific; just, “Let’s do it!”

Lets do an improvement utilizing any and all of the methods in Ohio’s Revised Code Section 6131.01 (C)(1)(2)(3)(4)(5) necessary for the disposal of surplus water, and make this list of 117,554 suckers in Toledo pay for it! (As they outnumber us 100 to 1.)

You would think that farmers in the rural areas are fine with taking care of their own ditches, and when there is an urgent problem with a ditch or creek that they cannot handle, they would get assistance from the state or local bureaus that help farmers, maybe even the Great Lakes Commission’s Great Lakes Sediment and Nutrient Reduction Program, as Spencer Township is doing right now.

But to force the responsibility of rural ditches on the majority of the population in Toledo, while at the same time taking away certain landowner rights and responsibilities? Not cool!

Tearing through private property and dredging up ponds and rivers on “watershed” missions to be determined (show us one example!) has got to be inefficient and hurtful to our local and regional ecology.  But what a lucrative business model that would be!

Not the most transparent petition, this “Joint-County Ditch Petition filed by Spencer Township.” Yet, it is easy to see through.

125,185 parcels are proposed to be subject to the new tax. 117,554 of those parcels are located in Lucas County. 7,486 parcels are located in Fulton County.  145 parcels are located in Henry County. It doesn’t seem quite equitable for Lucas County to bear 94% of the proposed burden, especially when we already pay in tax dollars a healthy portion of the maintenance of 10-Mile Creek.  I wonder if we should start thinking about charging Fulton and Henry counties for their water running through our “watershed.” It’s an idea almost as ridiculous as having to clean up their creeks, ponds and ditches, when we’ve already paid for our own. What are we, moneybags? Or just suckers?

Calculating a quick estimate of the cost of creek clean-up, as put forth by the Drennan Ditch project now being done on 2.25 miles of ditch for $200,000 by the Great Lakes Commission’s Great Lakes Sediment and Nutrient Reduction Program, it’s going to cost Toledo homeowners a lot of money, at $88,889 per mile of ditches. And when they have completed cleaning the 200+ miles of waterways in Lucas and Fulton counties for 18 million dollars, they will start all over again, under the guise of “permanent maintenance.” That assessment amount will stay on our tax bill forever, or at least until the year 2100.

Tell them what you think of Petition 1053.

Three Lucas County Commissioners will be either approving or not approving this petition. Here is their contact information — let them know what you think:

Tina Skeldon Wozniak  President  twozniak@co.lucas.oh.us

Pete Gerken  pgerken@co.lucas.oh.us  

Gary Byers  GByers@co.lucas.oh.us

Board of County Commissioners

One Government Center
Suite 800
Toledo, OH 43604

MORE LINKS:

https://co.lucas.oh.us/3456/Drainage-Petitions

https://co.lucas.oh.us/3487/Tenmile-Creek

https://co.lucas.oh.us/DocumentCenter/View/78925/LEGAL-NOTICE-Ten-Mile-Creek-WatershedRev05-13-2021

https://co.lucas.oh.us/FormCenter/Engineer-40/Tenmile-Creek-225

https://co.lucas.oh.us/DocumentCenter/View/78935/FAQSheetView-1stHearing_TenMile

Lucas County Engineers Office, Mike “hands off the wheel” Pniewski (419) 213-2860


Penny Gentieu   May 26, 2021

This blog post was updated on June 1, 2021.

June 5, check this out — Part II  A Blank Check

Facebook page made on this subject Toledo Now

For some historical perspective (a river is not a ditch):

Ned Skeldon, Betty Mauk and their river legacy

One reply on “10-Mile Creek ripoff”

This sounds like a “taking” of private property without “compensation”. In fact as you mention, this is a regulatory “taking” that property owners would actually have to pay for. Really pretty incredible. I was involved with Ohio Lakefront Group over the years when the Ohio DNR was effective trying to “take” lakefront property from the owners through regulation. After many years and $100K’s of legal work, the Ohio Supreme Court eventually said the ODRN could not do what they tried. You might try contacting these guys as the attorneys that worked on this have already done the work and succeeded https://www.ohiolakefrontgroup.com

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