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Published: Friday, 8/2/2013

Perrysburg residents pack council meeting on proposed riverfront plan

BY MATT THOMPSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Residents pack the Perrysburg City Council meeting that discussed the proposed $26 million riverfront park on July 30, 2013. Residents pack the Perrysburg City Council meeting that discussed the proposed $26 million riverfront park on July 30, 2013.
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More than 120 people packed themselves into the City of Perrysburg council room Tuesday, overflowing out the door in an attempt to hear details of the city's $26 million riverfront renovation master plan.

Many of the people in attendance said they were against the plan, citing concerns about costs, interference with the natural landscape, added traffic, potential crime, and parking problems.

“Frankly I don't think we need Disneyland here,” said Perrysburg resident Deborah Born after the meeting. “No one is mentioning how they will add security to the area and obviously there will be a huge levy forced on the taxpayers for this when the Mayor is no longer in office.”

Mayor Nelson Evans' second term ends at the end of the year, and he is not seeking re-election. 

Others said they loved the idea of bringing more exercise opportunities to the area. Both arguments at times received smatterings of applause from different sections of the audience.

A resident who did not identify himself was met with vigorous hand-clapping when he stood up and said, "I'm very concerned about the availability of exercising areas in our community. We are one of the wealthiest communities in northwest Ohio and all we do is say no. We need to start being positive."

The meeting was informational in nature; no action was taken by city officials. City council members were among those in the audience, mostly against the back wall with the overflow crowd that didn't have a seat.

Mark Hieber, a design representative for Harley Ellis Devereaux, the company that put together the plan, went through details with the audience. The design includes adding a zip-line course, a mountain bike course, up to two theaters, a multi-use path, and water cascades. It also includes a plan to move the Commodore Perry Statue.The path will connect Orleans Park, Riverside Park, and Hood Park.

The statue would be moved down the slope between Front Street and the Maumee River in an effort to give Front Street walkers or drivers a better view of the river.

Between Riverside Park and Orleans Park there are homeowners that own land along Front Street that backs up to the Maumee River.

“We created a firestorm tonight,” Mayor Evans said during the meeting, before thanking residents for coming. “We want to connect Perrysburg to utilize the riverfront. The riverfront area was designated for the public.”

Front Street homeowner Charles Pfleghaar was upset that the mayor wasn't honoring when that land, where his home is, was rezoned to residential. 

“I don't understand how the mayor talks about the land being for common use of the town people,” he said after the meeting. “The city doesn't own the riverfront. I don't see where they'll get the money from.”

Mr. Hieber discussed 12 different state or federal sources for potential funding for the project, including the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He also said the various projects could be stretched out and completed over a span of about 20 years.

Questions were cut short after about 15 minutes so the normal city council meeting could take place. Perrysburg Planning and Zoning Administrator Brody Walters handed out questionnaires for people to fill out and promised someone would answer their questions. He also said anyone not at the meeting with questions could email him at bwalters@ci.perrysburg.oh.us.

Former Perrysburg Mayor and council member Jon Orser was against the plan.

“This is a $26 million hole and the only people who benefit from it are the architects and construction workers,” the Perrysburg resident of 71 years said. “It is totally unnecessary.”

Council member Joe Lawless promised further discussion about the project at the next recreation meeting at 5 p.m., Aug. 19. He said the committee could give council its recommendation Aug. 20.

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.



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