The history of open space acquisition by Granville Township is rooted in the community's comprehensive plan completed in December, 1990, and adopted by the Township and Village in 1991. That plan made particular note of the severe shortage of recreational space in the community.
Fortunately, the Ohio Legislature enacted Ohio Revised Code 5705.19(HH). That new section of Ohio law permitted Townships to pass real estate tax levies for the acquisition of green space through outright purchases of land and development easements. Open space levy proceeds are “restricted,” which means purchases using green space levy proceeds are for preservation of green space and uses on these purchases are restricted and regulated by law.
Granville Township became one of the first Townships in the state of Ohio to pass an open space levy. The 1.0 mill levy became effective in 1998. It was renewed by popular vote in 2001 and replaced in 2006. After initial passage, the Township trustees appointed a broad community based citizen group which included a member of Village council (Dan Bellman), a Village planning member (Keith Myers), and former Township trustee Paul Treece.
The report of that committee recommended purchasing property of:
• Natural or scenic beauty
• Unusual geological significance
• Old-growth woods
• Land and wetlands above the Raccoon Valley Aquifer
• Open vistas and strategic watersheds in general
The initial open space 1.0 mill levy was intended to test the waters to determine the community’s interest and acceptance of supporting an open space acquisition program funded through real estate tax levies. In 2000, the Township trustees were approached by a group of citizens who felt that the Township should become more aggressive in pursuing additional open space. This group recommended increasing the revenues raised to pursue those purchases. The community passed its second open space acquisition levy of 2.5 mills in 2000 and collection of those revenues began in 2001. The levy was replaced in 2004. Again the Township trustees sought community input and guidance in shaping its open space strategy. A community-wide citizens group was formed that included a Village council member (Candi Moore) and other Village and Township residents.
That committee issued its final report to the Township trustees on April 25th, 2001. Its recommendations included five categories of property purchases:
• Preservation of areas of scenic/natural beauty as well as areas of historical or unusual geological significance that may be subject to development;
• Preservation of the integrity of the comprehensive plan;
• Protection of agricultural lands;
• Preservation of Granville lands in danger of being annexed to other communities and/or high density development;
• Protection of edges and boundaries, Village entrances, buffers, open vistas, and view sheds.
Several factors and strategies have emerged as we have implemented this program. First, the Township Trustees can only purchase property that is voluntarily sold to us. We are prevented by law from using open space levy funds to make acquisitions through the power of eminent domain. Second, it has become apparent that, where possible, it makes sense to target property that is located adjacent to property owned by other public and charitable institutions. In this way, we can work with others who have the broader community interest as their mission and, by combining our efforts, create aggregate blocks of community controlled real property. Finally, because we are a public political institution, we can structure transactions for owners who are interested in financing their sale of land to us in a manner that provides tax benefits not ordinarily available in private transactions. This gives us the opportunity to pay for property over time and gives us flexibility in stretching our resources. It also provides an additional inducement to sellers of property to work with us in exchange for tax benefits.
We have leveraged community resources through the application and receipt of public grants. In 1996, the Township Trustees and Clerk, by their own personal efforts, prepared and applied for an Ohio Nature Works Grant for improvement of Raccoon Valley Park. In 1997, Granville Township received a $100,000 grant from the State of Ohio. Funds were used for the original construction of two soccer fields and four baseball diamonds, as well as adjacent access and parking. In 2002, the Granville Township Trustees and Clerk, through their own resources, prepared and applied for a State of Ohio grant designed to protect endangered habitat along a portion of Raccoon Creek. On May 28, 2003, Granville Township received $49,242 from the State of Ohio for reimbursement of 75% of the purchase of the 21.3-acre Watts Property.