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Published: Wednesday, 6/12/2002

E. Toledo rezoning sought for charter school

A Michigan charter school operator wants to convert the former Libbey-Owens-Ford Co. technical center in East Toledo into an elementary school.

Erich Speckin, a developer in Okemos, Mich., has applied to rezone the property at East Broadway and Oakdale Avenue from M-2 “industrial district” to C-2 “restricted office space.” Mr. Speckin intends to lease the building to the Leona Group, of East Lansing, Mich., for the Lake Erie Academy elementary school.

The Toledo Plan Commission is slated to decide on the rezoning tomorrow.

In a staff recommendation, city planners opposed rezoning the land to commercial zoning because they want it to remain an industrial area. As a compromise, the planning staff suggested rezoning the land as M-3 “planned industry district,” which would allow a school. The staff recommendation also questioned the use of a former industrial property surrounded by contaminated land as a school.

Mr. Speckin, of EJS Properties, said he is negotiating to buy the L-O-F building.

“It's moving forward. The zoning is the last issue remaining,” he said.

Mr. Speckin, who works as a forensic chemist at a lab in Okemos, said he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in environmental studies for the site. “The area which is proposed for the school is absolutely no concern,” he said.

Michael Malone, executive vice president of the Leona Group, said he is confident “that there are not imminent hazards to children's safety at that site.”

“We will be insistent that that be the case,” Mr. Malone said.

The University of Toledo Charter School Council approved a contract with the Leona Group for the academy in May. It would enroll kindergarten through fifth-grade pupils its first year and use the direct instruction curriculum.

Toledo District Councilman Robert McCloskey also supports the zoning plan.

“That technical center has been there forever. That building is beautiful,” Mr. McCloskey said. “I don't necessarily support charter schools. But if they're going to do something to use an empty building, I would be willing to support the zoning change.”

The technical center at 1701 East Broadway was closed in 2000 as a money-saving move by Pilkington PLC, the parent company of L-O-F.

In addition, the plan commission agenda includes an application from Hospice of Northwest Ohio to rezone property at 800 South Detroit Ave. for a residence for terminally ill patients. The change would be from M-3 planned industry district to R-5 multi-family residence district for a facility with 24 beds.

The property was originally part of the Medical College of Ohio's Northwest Ohio Advanced Technology Park. Hospice purchased the 17-acre parcel in January from MCO for $340,001.



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