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Published: Tuesday, 8/5/2003

Sylvania won't drop eminent domain

Sylvania City Council last night unanimously rejected a petition that demands that the city drop its eminent-domain proceedings to take the Lathrop House and its property from St. Joseph Catholic Church.

The decision likely means that city voters will consider the issue in November.

After the unanimous vote, Jacklyn Frederick, a member of the committee that collected signatures on the petition, submitted a letter to the clerk of council asking that the issue be forwarded to the Lucas County Board of Elections.

The city has until Sept. 4 to do that and comply with the city charter and for the issue to get on the November ballot, according to Jim Moan, city law director.

Council members also voted to add Mayor Craig Stough to their negotiation committee to meet with representatives of the church to try to end the impasse over the property across Main Street from the church.

Councilman Patrick Kriner said despite the move that will expedite a city vote, he thinks there may be time to negotiate a settlement.

Michael McGowan, an attorney and spokesman for the church, said he is willing to meet with city officials at any time in an effort to break the deadlock.

The church owns the house and property and wants to move the building, said to be a stop on the Underground Railroad, so the church can expand its campus.

Others contend moving the 1830s house will diminish its historic significance. They contend it must stay on the ravine where it is, because that was the route taken by fugitive slaves to find sanctuary in the basement of the home.

Council sided with the preservationists and unanimously voted to take the property. The eminent-domain proceeding is pending in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

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