JVS annexation locked in back-and-forth legal battle

A preliminary injunction will allow Oberlin’s case to move forward in a bid to annex the Lorain County JVS.

Judge Raymond Ewers will allow city officials to voice their case for extending the city limits to envelop the Pittsfield Township vocational school.

Oberlin law director Jon Clark filed a lawsuit June 11 against the school, saying it refused to honor an agreement made in 1971.

The lawsuit states the JVS agreed to a deal when being built 44 years ago to receive the city’s sewer services. In return, its 133 acres would be annexed into Oberlin if the city limits ever reached neighboring properties.

A parcel of farmland across Rt. 58 from the JVS was brought into Oberlin in 2007, which prompted officials in 2013 to seek annexation.

The JVS, in a written statement, denied it has any legal obligation to become part of Oberlin, let alone by the city’s method which it argues is a tax grab.

In a counter-intuitive move, the JVS filed an Expedited Type II petition for annexation June 24 with the Lorain County commissioners.

It seeks to give only 98.37 acres of land to the neighboring city. If approved, it would not allow the city to collect income tax from employees.

Oberlin officials countered with a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the JVS. Clark said city officials asked the judge to stop the commissioners from moving forward with the JVS’ petition because he wanted to be heard before a ruling was made.

“Oberlin will suffer irreparable harm if the preliminary injunction is not granted because it would be forever barred from the collection of income taxes from non-residents who are employed by the JVS,” stated Oberlin’s counsel.

JVS attorney Jennifer Flint, filing against the injunction, stated Oberlin’s claimed harms or consequences are speculative.

“By Oberlin’s own admission, there is only the potential for irreparable harm and even this ‘potential’ harm is derived from mere hypotheticals,” Flint wrote.

“The court finds that (the city of Oberlin) has shown a reasonable probability that it will suffer irreparable injury if the requested relief is not granted and that there is a substantial likelihood (Oberlin) will prevail on the merits of the case,” stated judge Raymond Ewers, ruling Aug. 28 to grant a preliminary injunction. “The court finds that the (JVS) would not be unjustifiably harmed if the preliminary injunction were granted. The public interest would further be served if the preliminary injunction were granted.”

It is unknown when the commissioners will vote on the JVS annexation.

A case management conference has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 15.

Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.