LIMA — David Smith’s question to Lima City Council on May 6 was a simple one.
“I just need to know how it is all going to go ahead from here,” Smith said to council Monday night after reviewing some of the recent updates he’s made to his property.
But a glance at Smith’s property shows how complex his annexation request may be. Among the broken down vehicles, settling houses and dilapidated structures, Smith’s property at 1601 Reservoir Road masks a 15-year-long tiff with Bath Township that starts with the question prominently displayed on his property: “Why hogs? B.A.T.H. Best Ask The Hollenbachers.”
According to Smith
To hear Smith describe it, his feud with Bath Township is reminiscent of “Little Pink House” — Hollywood’s retelling of a controversial eminent domain overreach by corporate and political interests.
Back in 2004, Smith said that Bath Township officials “forced vacancy” from his two-story century-old yellow residence on Reservoir Road. At that time, Smith said the house was empty because he had evicted a tenant, and his property was not appropriately grandfathered when new zoning laws went into affect.
“I was in the process of cleaning up the property when the zoning inspector came to me,” Smith said. “They told me, ‘you can’t live here and you can’t rent it out.’ At that point, I stopped working on it.”
And here’s where Smith’s story quickly gets complicated.
Between alleged appeals and variance hearings, Smith said Bath Township hasn’t cooperated in changing their minds about his request to use the house, and he allegedly has reams of public documents proving as much. Today, Smith’s complaints range from complicated examples of whataboutism to alleged corruption by former Bath Trustee Roy Hollenbacher and attorney Mike Rumer.
And then there’s the hogs. Smith has yet to install swine on his property, but he has used the threat to try to push local governments to move according to his pace.
In a letter to Neighborhood Specialist Autumn Swanson, Smith writes: “We are shortly placing hogs on this property. This is not something we want to do, but we have been offered very little choice.”
None of this should be any news to Bath Township residents. In 2017, Smith sent — by his count — 1,992 letters (a small picture of a hog was stamped on the envelope) throughout the township alleging widespread corruption with Hollenbacher as its center. The move cost him $2,000.
The effect of Smith’s letters is hard to gauge, but Hollenbacher did lose his 2017 bid for re-election.
Smith estimates that since 2004, his feud with the township cost him over $150,000 due to the lost rent and legal costs.
According to Hollenbacher
“People ask me, ‘Doesn’t that sign make you mad?’” Roy Hollenbacher said about Smith’s sign blaming him for the situation. “Not really. I don’t pay attention to (Smith).”
But while the sign may not upset Hollenbacher, Smith’s actions definitely do. The former trustee, who held the position for 20 years, used more than one expletive to describe Smith and the grief Hollenbacher says Smith has caused Bath Township. In 2009, the township even sued Smith to get him to clean up his property. Smith appealed the decision and lost in Ohio’s 3rd District Court of Appeals.
The whole process took two years.
Between the legal costs of the case and the man hours dedicated to fulfilling Smith’s public records requests, Hollenbacher said that Smith has cost the township upwards to $50,000.
Today, Smith is seeking annexation with the City of Lima.
Luckily for him, his task is already half over. The old yellow house that sits on his land is divided down the middle with the west half in Lima and the east half within Bath Township.
But if Lima is to annex the east half, it would also annex Smith’s sign, his feud and much of dilapidated items associated with it.
In a written memo to city council, code inspectors made clear that “the city would be annexing a property that would immediately have multiple and significant code violations. It is recommended that Mr. Smith clean and clear his property prior to petitioning for annexation.”
But Smith said he has reservations about clearing the property. Smith said he has a developer curious about the property, but if he were to clear the land of the century-old house, he said he would lose his second option to turn the house into two townhouse apartments if the interest of the developer wanes.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.