City land sale OK’d, but snag emerges

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

The Toledo city council approved the sale of 213 acres of city-owned land in Monclova Township last night, but the deal could hit a snag.

Eclat Development, Ltd., a local partnership formed about a year ago, has agreed to buy the land for $6.2 million.

The council voted unanimously to OK the sale but held out on spending $300,000 on waterline improvements on the land.

Council members said they doubted the wisdom of spending money to improve the infrastructure of land outside the city limits.

“We’ve got uses for that money in the city of Toledo, and I’m not sure if spending it on land in Monclova is the best idea,” Councilman Peter Gerken said.

But at least one city official believes that $300,000 could be a dealbreaker.

“This is a terrific deal for the city,” said Barry Broome, the director of development. “I don’t want to give these businessmen the impression that we’re backing away.”

Mr. Broome was the target of withering criticism from the council for almost an hour. When Mr. Gerken first raised his objections about the $300,000, Mr. Broome said that payment was part of the city’s deal with Eclat, and that approving the sale was equivalent to approving the $300,000.

After a lengthy dispute over what the city’s legal obligations were, the council agreed to approve the sale, but refer the infrastructure payment to its finance committee. There, it will be considered along with the city’s budget during the next two months.

Mr. Broome has clashed with the council over development projects before. While discussion on the $300,000 was still going on last night, he put on his coat and left the council chambers, leading Councilman Bob McCloskey to call his actions “rude.”

In other action during their 4 1/2-hour meeting, council:

* Rejected Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s request to hire a private search firm to find a director for the Toledo-Lucas County plan commissions.

The search would have cost $15,000. Among the concerns raised by council members: Lucas County officials are not willing to pay for a portion of the search’s cost. The plan commission director is paid by the city and the county.

Six council members voted for the search, and five voted against. Seven votes were necessary for passage; Councilwoman Betty Shultz was not at the meeting at the time of the vote.

Mayor Finkbeiner rejected the previous candidate presented by the plan commission, Fred Guerra of Barberton, O.

County officials said they would have approved Mr. Guerra, which is the reason they gave city officials for not paying for part of the search.

* Approved the development agreement that will allow HCR ManorCare, Inc., to move its headquarters into the Summit Center downtown.

The move includes a $1.5 million grant from the city, as well as grants and loans from the state.

* Put off the start of eminent domain proceedings against three homeowners whose residences are in the way of the Jeep plant project.

Council members said they want to have two more weeks to find a way to obtain the properties through mediation instead of a lawsuit.

* Authorized the city to buy $375,000 worth of road salt.

In this winter’s storms, city trucks have spread more than 20,000 tons of salt to melt snow and ice, and officials said the extra expenditure is necessary to ensure the city will have enough salt to handle further storms.

* Consolidated the operations of the city’s two engineering staffs, from the departments of transportation and utilities.