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Residents working to save park land

By Denise Dick

Monday, August 15, 2005

The association has hired a lawyer, a professional engineer and an ecologist.
CANFIELD -- When Angelo and Celeste Liberato moved back to the area in 1998, the pristine wooded area behind their Fairway Drive home helped convince them that that's where they wanted to live.
When they bought the house nestled in the upscale township neighborhood near Tippecanoe Country Club, they were told the three-acre area was reserved for a park area and wouldn't be disturbed, but the couple didn't just take a Realtor's word for it. They checked the Mahoning County tax map that marks the property "reserved for park area."
But now their peaceful, wooded setting may be in jeopardy.
Township trustees plan to create a detention pond on the property, which is township-owned, to address flooding that occurs along Indian Run Creek. The roughly $149,000 project would be funded mostly by a state grant with township funds covering the rest.
A chain-link gate will be erected, a road plowed directly behind their property, and most of the trees will be cut down.
The Liberatos and several of their neighbors who constitute the Southern Hills Homeowners Association oppose the plan. The association has hired an attorney, professional engineer and an ecologist to help their case.
About the deed
The original deed shows the property was to be designated a park, and they found that the property was deeded back and forth between the township and Mahoning County Planning Commission. A 1977 quit-claim deed shows the portion with the park designation crossed out.
They also found the township didn't own the land when it began planning the detention pond.
William Reese, trustee chairman, said a former trustee was supposed to file the paperwork so the township would show as the property's owner but didn't.
"When we found that out, we got the paperwork and crossed the t's and dotted the i's," he said.
That was in March.
Celeste Liberato says the neighbors, not the township, maintained the property. A previous homeowner planted the landscaping.
"We water it, our neighbor cuts it and we take turns doing the mulch," she said.
The homeowners association also determined the area is a wetland.
Trustees have requested an opinion from the county prosecutor's office on whether they can create the pond on what's considered park property as well as how to address wetland issues.
"People are getting flooded, and we have to do something," Reese said.
The plan would sit better with neighbors, Angelo Liberato said, if they believed it would solve the flooding experienced by those along Indian Run.
"Too many things surrounding this situation are just not kosher," he said.
Larger pipes
J. Robert Lyden, the engineer hired by the homeowners association, says the detention pond plan would address less than 3 percent of the water flow into the creek.
He suggested increasing the size of the storm sewer pipes running from Jamison Place to the Indian Run ditch.
Reese doesn't believe that plan will work, however.
"We got sued because of the water flowing into Boardman and people getting flooded in Boardman," Reese said, referring to a class-action lawsuit filed earlier this year about flooding, listing several area government entities as defendants.
"If we increase the pipe size, that's going to get water to Boardman faster," he said.
Atty. Alfred Fleming, who represents the homeowners, argues that the problem with flowing water starts farther up near the country club. That's where it should be addressed, he said.
"They're going to destroy this pristine wooded area that's reserved for a park for something that's only going to address about 2 percent of the problem," Fleming said.
Reese said attempts to work something out with the country club were unsuccessful. Though he agrees the problem begins upstream, water collects more water as it rolls downstream, he contends, meaning a detention pond would be more useful on the township-owned land than at the country club.
Though Reese agrees that the plan will deal only with a small percentage of the water, he says it's only an initial step. The township plans to apply for another state grant for an expensive flood remedy north of Pebble Beach Drive.
However, Celeste Liberato points out that once the wooded area is replaced with a detention pond, it's gone and the 100-plus-year-old trees within it are gone too.
"A detention hole never brings property values up," she said.