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Published: Wednesday, 3/17/2010

Sylvania schools extend option on land

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Sylvania Board of Education has extended its purchase option for land in southwest Sylvania Township upon which it hopes to build an elementary school, while officials are focusing on a building design that avoids a controversial wetland.

Brad Rieger, superintendent of schools, said after the board's vote that he expects environmental permit applications for construction at 9336 and 9364 Wolfinger Rd. to be filed by the end of this week.

If the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers take six months to review the applications, that will consume nearly all of the time that the school board added when it voted last week to extend the purchase option on 38.4 acres belonging to Melvin S. Lesinski, which otherwise would have expired on March 27.

"We need some additional time to do the due-diligence," Mr. Rieger told the school board, which approved the extension without further discussion.

Afterward, Mr. Rieger said the district's plans for the property now call for the school, intended as a replacement for Central Elementary, to be built on the site's southernmost 11 acres, thus avoiding a watercourse that state officials have declared to be part of a larger, high-quality wetland that sprawls from the east-central part of the Lesinski land onto neighboring property.

Building farther south than previously planned still requires environmental permits because the land involved has several small tracts of low-grade wetlands.

Thomas Yoder, a neighbor who opposes the school, said extending the purchase option only worsens the bad decision school officials made to choose the Lesinski property in the first place.

The district's own reports show that the area has a high water table that will require extensive excavation and re-filling for foundation construction, he said.

"Nine months later after signing the option, the school is still trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear," Mr. Yoder said. "It is still a swamp. It is still a wetland and the school board's ego will not allow them to admit they made a mistake in choosing the Wolfinger site over the Timberstone site.

Mr. Yoder also predicted that the environmental permitting process will take longer than six months, once any likely appeals are factored in.

"Why should the children of Central Elementary be forced to suffer because the school will not abandon a project that will cost millions of dollars and was ill conceived from the start?" he said.

The Timberstone site is land the school district previously purchased for construction of a future elementary school next to Timberstone Junior High School on Sylvania Avenue.

But school officials say that site is intended to be held in reserve for a "growth school" to accommodate future land development in northwest Sylvania Township, whereas they want to build Central Elementary's replacement south of Central Avenue, since most of its student population lives south of that busy roadway.

Extending the purchase option for the Lesinski land cost the school board nothing, and Mr. Rieger said the initial $15,000 option cost is creditable toward the $800,000 purchase price should the district proceed with buying the land.

The district would still like to get the swale's wetland category downgraded so it can be moved for the development of sports fields north of the proposed building, the superintendent said.

Mr. Yoder said that could be accommodated at Timberstone with fields that already exist.



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