City, Maumee move closer to economic deal; Toledo’s Monclova Twp. land would be annexed to suburb

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

It’s been 12 years, but the city of Toledo soon may be able to put the disastrous Monclova Township land purchase behind it.

Tomorrow, city attorneys will file petitions with the Lucas County commissioners asking the city of Maumee to annex 255 acres of Toledo-owned land in Monclova Township. If approved, the annexation would trigger an economic development agreement that could send millions of dollars into Toledo’s coffers.

“We’ve gotten an excellent return on the deal we were given to work with,” Toledo Development Director Barry Broome said. “We can now say that the taxpayers of Toledo are finally getting a fair return on their investment.”

About 212 acres to be annexed are being sold for $6.2 million to a local partnership in a deal announced last year.

City leaders are exultant that Toledo might finally begin to see an economic return on the city’s late-1980s entry into the land speculation business.

In 1987, Mayor Donna Owens and City Manager Phil Hawkey secretly assembled 1,187 acres in Monclova Township as a potential solution to the city’s space problems.

Large industries seeking greenfield sites for factories were looking to the suburban townships; Toledo’s plan was to annex a swath of that suburban land near I-475 and U.S. 24. In particular, city leaders hoped that Chrysler Corp. would agree to build a Jeep plant there.

In all, the city spent more than $14 million buying land.

But Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Charles Abood ruled that Toledo couldn’t annex the land because it didn’t touch the city’s borders. The plan went bust.

Soon after, Toledo officials began discussions with the city of Maumee. Toledo would allow Maumee to annex the land, in exchange for forming a joint economic development zone. Under the terms of the deal, Toledo would receive a portion of the payroll taxes Maumee collected from businesses on the Toledo land.

But the 1991 deal said the revenue-sharing would only kick in after 75 per cent of the Toledo land had been annexed. In 1994, Maumee annexed more than 600 acres, including the Fallen Timbers battlefield and the planned site of a mall. The 255 acres to be annexed would push the percentage over 75 per cent – “just barely,” according to Maumee Mayor Steve Pauken.

Completing the land annexation hasn’t been a priority over the last decade because there haven’t been any revenues to collect. Mr. Pauken said no income-revenue producing businesses are on any Toledo-owned land in Maumee or on the land to be annexed.

For the first five years of the development zone, Toledo will receive one third of all city payroll tax collected in the zone. Maumee currently assesses a 1.5 per cent payroll tax, putting Toledo’s portion at 0.5 per cent.

The percentage Toledo collects will slowly increase over the following years of the development zone agreement.

Mr. Broome said that, while estimates of revenues need to be rethought, the development zone could funnel millions of dollars annually into Toledo’s treasury once the land is fully developed. “That’s a long way off,” he said. “This could potentially be the most significant [Joint Economic Development Zone] in Ohio, because the land is so valuable.”

In September, a local partnership named Eclat agreed to buy 212 acres to be annexed for light industrial use and an office park. Mr. Broome said he expected that sale to be completed next month.

Mr. Pauken and Mr. Broome said the deal will go a long way to heal the often bitter feelings between the two cities. Mr. Pauken said the original land deal hurt relations for years. “I remember where I was when Kennedy was shot, and I remember where I was when I was told about the Monclova land grab in the same way,” he said. “It was a really significant event.”

Once the annexation petitions are filed tomorrow, the county commissioners will schedule hearings and decide whether to approve the annexation. Then Maumee city council and Mr. Pauken must approve the deal. The process will take several months, officials said.

One potential hurdle remains. Under state law, a township can appeal any annexation of its land. Monclova Township appealed the 1994 annexation all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which chose not to hear the case. Gary Kuns, president of the township trustees, could not be reached for comment yesterday.