Thursday, Sep 29, 2016
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County to advertise Westwinds park sale

The Westwinds Industrial Park is either prime real estate that's ripe for development or precious natural land in the Oak Openings region that needs to be preserved.

It's all a matter of perspective.

The Lucas County Commissioners voted this week to allow the property on Airport Highway near Toledo Express Airport to be advertised for sale.

But the Nature Conservancy and other conservation groups believe the county should hold onto the land or make it available for less than market value so rare plants and wildlife won't be lost.

“We're not in a position to plunk down millions of dollars,” said Terry Seidel, Oak Openings program manager for the Nature Conservancy. “I'd like to think there's an opportunity for us all to sit down and have a dialogue about how something like this could be done.”

If comments made by Commission President Sandy Isenberg at a meeting Thursday are any indication, preserving the land isn't a priority. “I have concerns that the Nature Conservancy is going to say, `We want this land for free,'” Ms. Isenberg said.

She said if the Nature Conservancy or other environmental groups such as the Black Swamp Conservancy want the property, they can pay market value.

Market value for the roughly 240 acres that are available is about $3.1 million, according to Waymon Usher, the county's economic development director. That's taxpayer money that could go into the county coffers, Ms. Isenberg said.

The land, dedicated by the county in the 1960s as an industrial park, is roughly bordered by Airport Highway on the south; Old State Line Road on the north; Eber Road on the east, and Garden Road on the west.

Philip Williams, vice president of the Black Swamp Conservancy, said as much of the area should be preserved as possible. The industrial park is near the Kitty Todd Preserve, which he said is home to more than 100 rare plant species.

He said the Oak Openings region, which extends far beyond the Toledo Metropark, contains Oak savanna and prairie that are ecologically rare.

Mr. Seidel said the Westwinds park is home to a rare flower called the Dotted Horse Mint. He said it was thought the flower didn't grow in Ohio anymore until it was discovered in the region. Such species only can be preserved by setting aside sections of land like Westwinds and Kitty Todd.

Commissioner Harry Barlos said selling the land will free up money for other county needs.

“We've been hearing for the last couple of years that we need to preserve. If any group desires to preserve it, it's for sale,” Mr. Barlos said.

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