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Committee to decide if annexation is next step

CHESAPEAKE — After last week’s vocal public hearing Chesapeake officials are forming an exploratory committee to see if they will go ahead with a petition drive to annex the west outskirts of the village.

“We have a lot of people who have expressed a desire to be part of the village,” Chesapeake Mayor Dick Gilpin said. “It is a very difficult thing. You make some happy and some mad.”

In April the Chesapeake Village Council voted unanimously to start the annexation process. The move would affect approximately 500 residents in the west end that includes all three schools and the section of the Lawrence County Airport that is in Union Township.

Village officials say they offer better police protection and an improved chance of getting grants that could fund infrastructure projects and the fire department.

However those opposed, including the Union Township Trustees, dispute those arguments saying those services are already being provided for the residents.

The final decision will come down to the Lawrence County Commissioners, if the village officials can get pro-annexation petitions signed by a majority of the residents in the annexation area.

Already the commissioners have publicly said they will not support the annexation if only a portion of the airport is included. They want all of the facility or none of it within the village limits.

Even though the commissioners are in the middle of an eminent domain lawsuit to increase the size of the airport for safety concerns, they are also considering developing the property commercially. Should that happen and the airport was part of Chesapeake, the village would get a portion of the property tax.

Right now village officials are still forming the annexation committee that will include community members.

“If and when (annexation) does happen, it has to be a group effort,” Gilpin said. “If it wasn’t, it would be us imposing it and you can’t do that. It has to be an effort by everybody involved.”