Ohio Renaissance Festival sues to separate from village; Harveysburg fights move

Festival group says neighboring township is better fit; mayor says move would be ‘catastrophic’ for village

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

The owner of the Ohio Renaissance Festival filed a court action seeking to detach its land from the village of Harveysburg and make it part of neighboring Massie Twp. Harveysburg is fighting the civil claim, which was filed in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

The ownership group had previously announced on social media that they wanted to return the land to the township, which they said could provide better services. They also said the village was threatening to impose a targeted entertainment tax that could raise ticket prices by as much as $2.

Last week, David Ashcraft, managing partner of Brimstone & Fire LLC, said 250 acres of the property is being farmed, and he described the annual festival as “agri-tainment.” He said the previous festival property owner agreed to an annexation contract because the village had water service.

However, the village is part of the Warren County Water System, and Ashcraft does not believe the reasons for the annexation agreement are relevant as the 25-year agreement ended on Dec. 31, 2022. The previous annexation agreement required the festival to pay Harveysburg a community development assessment, something that Ashcraft says needs to be reassessed.

“It hasn’t made any sense for the last 15 years,” he said.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

In their online statement, festival owners said “the property is far better aligned with the township for provided services than the village, who provides no services. Also, being part of Massie Township would allow us to continue to put the safety of our customers first and finally put in a turn lane into the park heading westbound on State Route 73 from I-71.”

Officials from the village of Harveysburg on Jan. 25 filed a legal response to Brimstone & Fire LLC’s court complaint. Village officials denied most of the allegations cited in the complaint seeking detachment from Harveysburg and rejoining Massie Twp.

The village’s answer said festival ownership “fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted” and that festival ownership’s “claim fails to satisfy the statutory criteria for detachment under Ohio law.”

Harveysburg officials said they have fully answered festival ownership’s complaint and “respectfully requests that the Complaint be dismissed with prejudice at the festival ownerships’ costs.”

Harveysburg Mayor Richard Verga said that the paperwork has been submitted to the court and he does not know when the next hearing will be scheduled.

“This is ‘reverse annexation’ and the village has not consented to it,” Verga said.

The mayor said last month, “If that (detachment) would happen, it would be a catastrophic event for the village.”

“We have no industrial or commercial base,” Verga said. “We get by. The lack of revenue from police activity and the Renaissance Festival would be a severe economic impact on the village.”

Verga said the agreement signed in the 1990s with previous owner Peter Carroll included a direct payment of $20,000 that would increase by $1,000 a year in lieu of a ticket tax. He said that payment is now at $44,000 per year.

Verga said the village, which does not have an income tax, relies on the festival payment, property taxes, and traffic fines for revenues.

Harveysburg council has not come up with an amount for the tax, Verga said, which can be levied at up to 8% per ticket. He said the average ticket tax is about 3%.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

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