October 22, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain County officials reject land donation for water retention basin

ED BETZEL/CHRONICLE GRAPHIC

ED BETZEL/CHRONICLE GRAPHIC

COLUMBIA TWP. — Lorain County officials have turned down an offer from former county commissioner Mary Jo Vasi to donate five parcels of land she owns in the northeast portion of the township to help with flooding in the Parkwood Drive area.

Vasi offered the land to the county in a May 31 letter, with the stipulation that if a water retention basin were built that it be named after her late husband, Joe Vasi.

She said she was surprised last month when she received a letter from county Administrator Jim Cordes declining the offer.

“I was disappointed on behalf of the people,” Vasi said.

Cordes said the county couldn’t use the land Vasi was offering because it wasn’t contiguous and was too small for a water retention basin.

“It’s two small lots in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “You don’t just plop a retention basin down on a piece of land.”

The land is inaccessible because a street, called Glenwood Avenue, was supposed to be constructed there but never was built.

Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes said Vasi tried last year to convince the county to build the road, but the county wasn’t going to foot the bill. He said neighboring residents could band together to pay for the street.

“It’s basically a petition process,” Innes said. “You would have to assess the property owners to pay for it.”

Vasi said once she realized the road was not going to be built, there was no reason for her to keep paying taxes on the land or the fees for a sewer that was built there, but isn’t in use. She said she is aware of flooding issues in the area and thought her land might help homeowners.

“I realized these people need help,” she said.

Columbia Township trustees Mike Musto and Dick Heidecker both said they were behind Vasi’s offer to donate the land for flood control and didn’t understand the county’s decision to turn down the offer.

Heidecker said the land owned by Vasi is in a flood plain, and could never be used for construction of a home. “Having the water basin would help control the flood problems,” Heidecker said.

After heavy rains in the spring, three houses on Parkwood Drive were heavily damaged, Musto said. He also said a nearby creek can’t be made any deeper because of the geography in the area, which leaves creating someplace for the water to go the best solution.

“The only choice we have is to put a retention basin upstream,” he said, adding that he believes other property owners in the area who have land they can’t use would probably be willing to donate their property to fix the problem.

Musto said it surprised him that the commissioners declined the donation without surveying the land first.

“They could have at least done a study,” Musto said.

Cordes said he discussed Vasi’s offer individually with the three county commissioners and they all indicated they were concerned about the liability of the county taking ownership of the land without a reason to use it.

He also said that if Columbia Township wants to accept the donation and work toward getting grants or other funding to build a retention basin, the county would work with the township on the project.

Musto said he believes flood control is the responsibility of the county’s Storm Water Management District, which township residents pay annual fees to fund. He said he intends to take the issue to a meeting of that organization later this week.

Vasi said she thinks the commissioners should have discussed their reasons for declining her offer during a public meeting, although Commissioner Tom Williams said he looked at the decision as an administrative issue that didn’t rise to the level of requiring a public hearing.

Vasi also said she’s hopeful that something can be done to stop flooding in the area.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way to help people,” she said.

Reporter Melissa Linebrink contributed to this story.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.


  • oldruss

    Former commissioner Vasi is not paying property taxes on these parcels, and is not paying sewer assessments on these parcels. So, her personal liability continues to increase year after year. If, however, former commissioner Vasi can unload these parcels on the county (and she may very well ask to include a waiver of any and all back taxes and back sewer assessments), it’s a win, win situation for her.

    • Otter

      I don’t pay for sewer on my empty lot, it’s there…but with no building, or water usage there is no sewer charge.

      • oldruss

        You may be right, although if this is an assessment for newly installed sewer line, so many dollars per linear front foot, then it may very well accrue.

  • Sis Delish

    If Former Commissioner Vasi has water retention issues, I believe there is a Pill for that.

    • Joe Smith

      LOL

  • Karen

    After reading these posts, I had to look up the parcels and sure enough, the parcel taxes are up to date, but yet the post from oldruss makes it look like Vasi has back taxes.. Of course she would require a waiver as anyone would do with any sale!!
    That was kind of Vasi to offer to donate the land for the flooding. If I were the residents there, I’d be upset with the county because it sounds like the land would make a nice retention and a very nice park.

    • oldruss

      From the article above: “Vasi said once she realized the road was not going to be built, there was no reason for her to keep paying taxes on the land or the fees for a sewer that was built there, but isn’t in use.”

      The article also had an accompanying diagram showing how these parcels are TWO SEPERATE PARCELS, and are not suitable for a retention pond, as the ARTICLE STATED.

    • oldruss

      Karen, could you please provide us with the permanent parcel numbers, so we could check the county auditor’s/treasurer’s records on these parcels, too.

      • johns62

        wasnt that hard Russ

        12-00-020-120-010 thru 012

        12-00-020-120-027 and 028

        • oldruss

          Thank you John62; I know it wasn’t hard to find, I just wasn’t going to horse around with it.

  • GreatRedeemer

    “Vasi said once she realized the road was not going to be built, there was no reason for her to keep paying taxes on the land or the fees for a sewer that was built there, but isn’t in use. ” eg, my deal to build a road and make a profit didn’t work out. That’s ok, sometimes speculation does not pan out.
    I suspect the taxes on vacant land are pretty cheap, but the
    potential tax deduction for donating might be worthwhile. for land that has
    little salability. There is always the LLC way to consider.

  • luvmytoaster

    Wow, the Vasi/Meszes family is STILL in the spotlight? Go figure….is she only offering this to help repair her daughters reputation regarding the illegal tire dumping and the food stamp fraud?

    • golfingirl

      Naming rights to a water retention basin?

      Would have been more appropriate if it was a retention basin for sewage, not rain water.

  • golfingirl

    Her “generosity” is exceeded only my her family’s legal troubles.

    Maybe they can use it as a site to dump old tires, or open a store to commit food stamp fraud.

    Oh, wait…..they have already been there, done that!

  • Americaschild

    Didn’t she or her son cost taxpayers over $360,000 to remove rubber old tires dumped?

  • Phil Blank

    Find another location, make it bigger, stock fish, then turn into a park and turn it over to the park system.

    Unless Vasi was looking for some kind of tax deduction?