Is Toledo's rich industrial heritage being frittered away, one mobile home park at a time? Is the city foolishly approving rezoning that sucks away industrial parcels, one strip mall at a time?
Unfortunately, recent history says yes. But it would be foolish for the city to aggravate this troubling trend. Why relinquish the city's remaining land available for industrial use and release it for commercial or residential projects just because there are no immediate industrial prospects?
It's a pattern we're seeing all too frequently. City planners last year approved rezoning the former Plaskon Products industrial site on Glendale Avenue for a new Wal-mart store. The site had environmental problems, which no doubt made it somewhat less attractive for industrial development, but it was valuable industrial land regardless, in a community with only so much retail spending power.
Elsewhere in Toledo, it's the same story: A tech center in East Toledo rezoned from manufacturing to commercial. A tract near the University of Toledo marked for industrial use in the city's master plan but converted to residential. An important corner section of the Fort Industry industrial park off Alexis Road rezoned commercial for a motorcycle dealership.
Now the city plan commission and City Council have an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and say “no more.”
Developers want to put a mobile home park on a big chunk of an industrial site off Angola Road in southwest Toledo and they're looking for rezoning help from the city. A third of the site has already been carved up for mobile homes and stores. If the new request is OK'd, less than half the 250-acre site will remain zoned for industry.
This isn't the first time that partners Tom Schlachter and Paul Avery have sought a zoning change for the acreage. Two years ago then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner stood figuratively in their path - he might well have blocked them literally if it had come to that - and the rezoning bid failed.
They're back for another try, perhaps figuring that they'll find a more sympathetic ear with the change in administration. To his credit, however, Mayor Jack Ford says he will not support rezoning of the property when it comes before the plan commission on Aug. 8 or at council in September.
That's certainly the correct and thoughtful approach. We don't cling to the notion that large manufacturing facilities on the order of the new Jeep plant are likely in Toledo's future, especially as the region moves toward a more high-tech economy.
But manufacturing will always be an important component of what makes Toledo go. Plan Commission Executive Director Steve Herwat's analogy to the game of dominoes is on the mark. “Once you lose the first parcel,” he said, “then more people will come and say, `Well, the one next door is zoned commercial, or the one next door is residential, so why can you rezone mine?' ”
To forfeit the city's remaining industrial sites for more fast-food joints and trailer parks is to utterly disregard the city's responsibility to provide for its future. Retention of industrial zoning should be a no-brainer, but then, we've thought that before.