Two school districts compete for development tax revenues

The Supreme Court hears arguments from two Cleveland-area school districts regarding the validity of their 1997 tax-sharing agreement.

Image of a pile of yellow pencils lying next to piles of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters

The Supreme Court hears arguments from two Cleveland-area school districts regarding the validity of their 1997 tax-sharing agreement.

In 1990, a vision was unveiled for a southeast corner of Cuyahoga County. The plans for 700 acres of commercial development, named Chagrin Highlands, would be the future headquarters of a large corporation as well as offices for other businesses, stores and even a hotel.

The Town of Beachwood annexed 405 acres of Highland territory. Beachwood, Cleveland and three other municipalities whose boundaries crossed the Highlands quickly agreed to a tax-sharing plan to reap the rewards of the thousands of new jobs on offer for the area. Residential development was missing from the vision.

Schools in the town of Beachwood have applied to the State Board of Education for the right to annex the part of the Highland territory that has been added to the city limits. Chagrin Highlands is part of the territory of the Warrensville Heights School District. While the five municipalities reached a quick resolution on tax sharing, the schools in Beachwood and Warrensville Heights did not.

Almost 31 years after the creation of Chagrin Highlands, the two districts are before the Supreme Court of Ohio, fighting over whether Warrensville Heights reneged on an agreement signed in 1997 to share a portion of the property taxes of the precious commercial area. , which did not add a large amount of new students to the districts.

Negotiating territory demand triggers
Following Warrensville Heights’ objection, Warrensville Heights and Beachwood went through a process under RC 3311.06 and public school board rules to make a good faith effort to negotiate a settlement.

The councils were unable to come to an agreement on their own and hired retired Federal District Court judge Robert Duncan to arbitrate the dispute. In 1997, Justice Duncan proposed a deal whereby the land would remain in the District of Warrensville Heights, but once the value of the Highland property exceeded around $ 22 million, the councils would share the tax revenues. land, with 70 percent for Warrensville Heights and 30 percent for Beachwood.

Both school boards approved the settlement. Beachwood sent a copy of the regulation to the state board of education, but it did not seek board approval. Neither school board submitted the regulation to the state board for approval.

Twenty years after the Highland Vision was announced, a key part of the plan has emerged. In 2010, industrial manufacturer Eaton Corp. announced that it is moving from its headquarters in Cleveland to a new facility in the Highlands and, with that move, consolidates some of its other facilities in the area. In 2013, the value of the land exceeded the threshold of $ 22 million defined in the 1997 regulation.

Beachwood asked Warrensville Heights to shift its share of tax revenue to the school district. Warrensville Heights refused, arguing there was no approved settlement.

In 2018, Beachwood sued Warrensville Heights in Cuyahoga County Common Plea Court, claiming the school district violated the contract and made other allegations, including that Warrensville Heights schools had committed fraud. The trial court sided with Warrensville Heights, ruling that without final state council approval, there was no valid contract.

Beachwood appealed to the Eighth District Court of Appeal. In a split decision, the Eighth District overturned the trial court’s decision, finding that an agreement that does not transfer physical territory from one district to another does not need the approval of the council of State.

The Supreme Court will hear the pleadings in Warrensville Heights v. Beachwood as well as six other cases when he meets in Columbus for a two-day session. The court will hear three cases on October 5 and four cases, including the school district standoff, on October 6. Pleadings begin each day at 9 a.m.

Details of oral argument
The arguments will be broadcast live online at and streamed live and archived on The Ohio Channel.

In addition to these highlights, the Court’s Office of Public Information today published preview articles on each case, available through the case name links.

Tuesday, October 5
A man was convicted in Cuyahoga County and sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in 2017. The girl took two buses to school and she disappeared from the area where she changed buses. In State c. Whitaker, the automatic appeal of the offender to the death penalty, the man raises 21 legal questions. Among them, he disputes whether the state had the right to compel him to undergo a psychological assessment by his own expert and whether the charge of aggravated burglary was proven. Noting that during the guilty phase of the trial, he admitted to having killed the young girl, he maintains that the prosecutor presented glaring evidence of the murder only to “ignite” the jury.

In 2018, a 141-acre owner company in Belmont County sought to extinguish oil and gas rights claims made by previous owners between 1925 and 1954. The trial court ruled in favor of the company, but a court of appeal ruled that only four of the five reservations of oil and gas rights realized during this period had been wiped out by the Ohio Marketable Title Act. The remaining deed of the right stated that the seller retained a quarter of the oil and gas rights while granting three-quarters to the new landowner, even though the seller only held three-eighths of the rights. In Senterra v. Winland, the court will consider whether Ohio should apply a rule that if a seller grants more rights than he owns, the reservation is abolished.

In State c. Leegrand, a pizza restaurant driver was shot and killed in 2015 as he left a Cleveland store making a delivery. The convicted man was convicted of multiple crimes, including “life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years” for murder. The appeals court ruled that the murder sentence was incorrect and ordered the lower court to sentence him indefinitely from 15 years to life, as required by law. The Cuyahoga County District Attorney maintains that the sentences are equivalent. The offender argues that courts are not required to use the exact wording of a law, but must respect the distinctions made by the General Assembly in the different penalties for crimes.

Wednesday October 6
In 2017, two Monroe County landowners sought to quash all previous claims to oil and gas rights to their properties. More than 100 defendants objected, arguing that they had property rights by inheritance. In Peppertree Farms vs. Thonen, landowners claim that the rights of the original oil and gas owners ended upon their death because the land deeds did not use the required wording indicating that they were seeking to pass the rights to their heirs.

The Court will also hear a separate case involving the same parties in Peppertree Farms vs. Thonen regarding another deed created by another former owner of oil and gas rights under two adjacent properties in Monroe County. In this case, the heirs not only claim that their rights were preserved, even though the act did not indicate the intention to pass the rights to the heirs, but also claim that the descendants preserved their rights through a will registered in County Monroe.

Avon Lake lawyer at Lorain County Bar Association v. Nelson participated in a bar association referral program for people in financial difficulty. The lawyer is charged with professional misconduct for failing to use the Referral Program Fee Agreement with clients and for lying in legal documents about his knowledge of a disciplinary investigation. The lawyer opposes the findings of the disciplinary committee and the proposed two-year suspension with one-year suspension. He says his paralegal lost client referral fee agreements during the May 2020 racial justice protests and no clients were harmed. Noting that the lawyer has already been sanctioned twice, the bar replies that the lawyer needs a real time out to practice law.

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