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Monday, October 20, 2014
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Published: Friday, 3/14/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

COMMENTARY

Perrysburg wiser than its leaders

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

Bertolt Brecht is supposed to have said that the secret wish of every government apparatus is that it might be able to abolish the people and form another.

That’s what I thought of driving away from a Thursday night Perrysburg City Council meeting. The forum was to consider a proposed new Costco at the intersection of State Rt. 25 and Eckel Junction Road.

The last hour was for public comment. I heard citizen after citizen come forward to ask quite reasonable questions — not an anti-big box firebrand among them.

In fact, people seemed to be nearly unanimous that they would like to have Costco come to Perrysburg. They think it is an enlightened company that would bring good jobs.

But most of the speakers said there are better sites for it in Perrysburg. And another 20 percent had specific questions that mostly didn’t get answered.

On the other side was a representative from Costco, Ted Johnson of T.J. Design strategies, and Perrysburg administrators. Council and the mayor let them carry the ball.

Mind you, some resident were for the development. Like the opponents and questioners, they did their homework. The town officials came armed with certainty and disdain.

But almost no answers.

The biggest question has to do with traffic. That intersection is already busy. So is Dixie Highway.

The response: We will be adding lanes, but we haven’t finalized those plans.

● Someone at Costco missed something very big when this site was chosen: There is a natural gas pipeline below the proposed site. The plan is to move the pipeline, but neither Costco nor the city can say when. Columbia Gas has not signed off. Moving a gas line is, all agree, very dangerous.

Response: It may take two years to move the line. Meanwhile, small bridges will be built for Costco’s trucks.

● There are condos in immediate proximity to the proposed store and neighborhoods in near proximity. Property owner Larry Small spoke simply and forcefully: There is no way to control the traffic, because new lanes can’t create new space. He told the council, “Try to imagine you live where we do.”

There is a city ordinance the intent of which is to protect homes from a big-box development on this parcel.

The official response: Not if you read the ordinance literally.

Walt Churchill spoke for the town: We want Costco, but not here.

I can see why Costco wants it there: You would see the store from the highway.

You would also see the gas lines backed up to the highway.

I can’t see why town officials are so gung-ho. Costco would likely not walk away, and this parcel could be better used as a campus, perhaps for medical offices.

The town is a highly desirable place to live and fast growing, so it should be in the driver’s seat, not Costco. But town officials seem to have little confidence in their town or its people.

That’s ironic because the folk came to this meeting much better prepared than those who would govern them.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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