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Published: 2/22/2006

Lake Township, Millbury, Walbridge: Communities agree to growth study

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A regional growth study for three communities in Wood County is on the horizon now that each entity has agreed to support the project financially.

Lake Township, Millbury, and Walbridge, along with the Northwestern Water and Sewer District, each recently voted to spend $500 toward the study, which will be conducted by the Center for Regional Development at Bowling Green State University.

Lake Township was the last to approve the funding with the understanding that the trustees wanted to stay away from any eminent-domain proceedings and land-use planning in favor of economic development plans, trustee Richard Welling said.

"It's to show that there's a cohesive unit cooperating among three entities for the betterment of the community," he said.

Now that all the entities are on board, Mike Carroll, director for the BGSU center, said he plans to meet with community officials to determine which direction to take the study before he sets out to collect the data by first holding some focus groups and interviewing residents to find out what they believe to be the existing assets in their own community.

Walbridge Mayor Dan Wilczynski said his vision for the study would be to identify where residential growth, an industrial base, and preserved farmland and agricultural areas should be in each community.

When those locations are identified, he said the study would look at the existing businesses in the area as well as study what other businesses could be attracted.

The third piece of the study would map the area's existing assets with a focus on transportation because the communities are near I-280, State Rt. 795, the Ohio Turnpike, and I-75.

"It makes sense to attract businesses with the transportation hub and the small airport south of Walbridge," Mayor Wilczynski said. "We're in a good position here."

Finally, because the three communities will be working together on economic development for mutual benefit, the mayor said officials will be looking into setting up a joint economic development zone to share expenses and tax revenue.

And more businesses mean more tax dollars going to the Lake Local School District, which is facing a deficit of more than $1.5 million by the end of 2008 if a levy is not passed.

The district, which includes Lake Township, Millbury, Walbridge, and a tiny portion of Ottawa County, has suffered through six defeated levies since August, 2004.

The school board recently voted to place a levy with a stated millage on the May ballot, instead of an emergency property-tax levy, to have the opportunity to collect funding from the new development they're banking on. If approved, the five-year, 8.75-mill tax levy would raise just under $2 million a year.

The district has been focusing on economic development since the Lake 20/20 Vision Plan was formed with government officials, businessmen, and citizens to work toward sustaining growth in the community and garnering community support for the schools, said John Geha of Geha Consulting Group, cochairman of the plan.

"We'll be able to market Lake Township to developers based on our contacts," Mr. Geha said. "Everything we want to do is for long-term development of the community."



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