BOWLING GREEN - Building a railroad track through their farms and yards will make living in a quiet, picturesque part of Lake Township more like living in the middle of a rail yard, property owners said yesterday.
About 20 residents met with Wood County commissioners to ask for help in fighting CSX Transportation Corp.'s plans to build the track, which would connect a track that follows East Broadway to Stanley Yard with a north-south track that runs between Luckey and Lemoyne roads in southern Lake Township.
“The major problem is all our property values are going to go down,” said Barbara Ward, spokeswoman for the group. “That is our main concern. That is why all these people are here today.”
Mrs. Ward said many of the homes in the area are newer houses, some valued as high as $300,000.
County commissioners told residents they would be willing to team with other elected officials, from Lake Township trustees on up to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, to get CSX officials at a meeting where they could hear and respond to local concerns.
“I think it's vital to get some sort of dialogue in a public setting with the railroad, and I think they have an obligation to come in,” Commissioner Tim Brown said.
The board urged the group to get as many people together as possible, including fire, police, and emergency medical service representatives, environmental and health officials, and others who could address concerns for the project.
“We understand your concerns,” Commissioner Jim Carter said. “If it weren't for you, we wouldn't even know about this process. They didn't go through the county commissioners. They didn't go through the Lake Township trustees. They went directly to property owners.”
CSX spokesman Gary Wollenhaupt said the railroad will need approval from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to build a grade crossing on Luckey Road south of Libbey Road, but knew of no other agencies CSX had to approach for approval.
Mr. Wollenhaupt said he understands the property owners' concerns, but said CSX selected a path that would displace the fewest people and put the track farthest from homes and businesses.
“We looked at a number of things and this particular route was selected because, of the alternatives, this offered the least impact on homes and businesses,” he said. “We certainly understand that folks have a deep attachment to their property and those sorts of things, but overall it's going to be a positive impact for the community.”
He said the new track should relieve congestion on nearby tracks because it will provide a southern entrance to Stanley Yard, which has track outlets only at the north end.
Neighbors are not convinced. “We feel there are plenty of abandoned right-of-ways they could use,” Mrs. Ward told commissioners. “Why come in and take a perfectly beautiful section of land and connect it?”
Mrs. Ward said five property owners have been approached about selling a portion of their land to CSX at a price of about $2,000 an acre, but others are adjacent or very close to the land where the track would be built.
Margaret Waltzer, a Maumee social studies teacher who took the day off to attend the meeting, said she recently received a purchase offer on her Libbey Road home that is for sale, but the offer was rescinded when the buyer found out about CSX's plans.
Connie Wise, who presented three pages of handwritten questions she has for CSX, wonders who will pay for damage caused to houses and water wells by the vibration of the trains in the area.
Dave Schober, a Conrail retiree who spent 43 years working for the railroad, said he sees the project as another loss of good farm ground.
“I didn't retire to listen to trains in my backyard. My simple statement about this whole thing is, Jacksonville, Florida, cannot run a railroad up here,” he said referring to CSX headquarters. “They don't know what goes on up here.”