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Published: Thursday, 4/21/2005

Neighbors alarmed by UT's plan for parking

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Neighbors who live around the University of Toledo expressed several concerns during a meeting last night with the school's president, including unrest over UT's proposed plans to build one - and possibly two - parking lots in Old Orchard.

Some residents of that neighborhood, which is just north of the university and Bancroft Street, recently erected yard signs in protest and have been calling city and university leaders to speak out about UT potentially using open land it owns for parking spaces.

President Dan Johnson tried to calm those residents at the university-sponsored meeting by saying that no plans involving parking lots are yet finalized and are years away.

The parking proposals are included in UT's 10-year, nearly $300 million master plan unveiled recently.

Mr. Johnson said the university will hold meetings with Old Orchard residents to discuss the future of the vacant land along Bancroft at Goddard Road, commonly referred to as Goddard Field. The university maintains the property, but it's used largely by neighborhood youngsters.

"There will be a great deal of discussion so the views are understood before any shovels are put to the ground," Mr. Johnson said.

In the 10-year plan, the university's architects also suggested a parking lot at Bancroft Street and Meadowwood Drive, which has some residential housing.

University officials have said parking is needed mostly for specific campus events, and any lots would be landscaped. They also said meetings were held on the issue before the 10-year master plan was unveiled.

But Harry Ward, who represents neighbors who live in the Westgate neighborhood, told Mr. Johnson that Old Orchard area residents were never informed of the master plan before it was approved by the UT board of trustees.

"These parking lots were not in any of these plans we were shown," he said.

Randy Stoecker, a sociology professor at the university who lives near the property, also said he was unaware of the university's plans until just recently.

"As a person who lives right next to it, I can tell you I was never invited to anything," he said.

In addition to Old Orchard, Mr. Johnson also heard concerns from residents in other neighborhoods near the university, including Byrne Hill Estates, Bancroft Hills, and Indian Hills.

They too complained of being informed about the university's future plans, largely those relating to development along Dorr Street on UT's south side.

They also talked about off-campus student housing, pushing for Mr. Johnson to take a different stance involving students living in residential areas.

UT officials at the meeting outlined the ways - within the law - that they are pursuing residents' concerns.

Cora Hammond, who heads up the Byrne Hill Estates Block Watch, said students in her neighborhood continue to create problems.

"I don't think they have a right to rain on my parade because I'm a homeowner and a taxpayer," she told Mr. Johnson.

But two UT student government leaders urged area residents not to label all students as problems. The student leaders said they continue to work with their peers and residents about ongoing issues, including their operation of a hotline.

Contact Kim Bates at:

kimbates@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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