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Published: Thursday, 8/28/2003

Vacant land use for elementary school explored

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A nearly six-acre parcel of land along River Road remains vacant after years of discussions and debate, but Maumee officials are continuing to explore ideas for its development.

One proposal involves Maumee City Schools and the possibility of locating a new elementary school there.

School and city officials are discussing the possibility of swapping Fort Miami Elementary School property on Askin Street for city-owned property in the 2500 block of River Road where an elementary school could be built, said Nancy Sayre, a district spokesman. The land had been considered for a Lutheran Homes Society apartment complex for the elderly.

Meantime, Maumee City Council's finance committee is reviewing a letter from the society that asks the city to forgive the repayment of a $100,000 loan Maumee made to it for the proposed apartment complex on the site.

The letter states that it might be in the best interests of City Council and the society to abandon the former Lucas County Children Services site that was part of its campus for “supportive services elderly housing.”

The parcel is situated across from the former main campus, which is now a residential development.

Lutheran Homes Society formally withdrew its proposed site plan for the apartment complex in April. According to a letter presented to the council last week, the organization considered revising its site plan to a smaller scale to try to diminish “the perceived excess traffic concerns expressed by the neighbors.”

It also proposed changing the facades to match the existing Carew Street neighborhood.

But David Roberts, president and chief executive officer of the society, stated in the letter that “I'm uncertain that this approach would satisfactorily address some of the citizen-expressed concerns regarding housing at this particular site.”

The organization tried, Mr. Roberts said, to find alternative sites for the 70-unit project, but to no avail.

He said it was the society's understanding that the city would approve a tax abatement for the project, and he contended in the letter that City Council induced the organization to commit to significant development expense for the property. These expenditures, he said, far exceed the $100,000 loan from the city.

Lutheran Homes Society has asked for forgiveness of the loan, and in return, it would continue its attempt to develop affordable housing with supportive services for the elderly in Maumee without the city's participation.

The city planned to sell the land to the society for $1, but the title never changed hands because the project fell through, said John Jezak, Maumee's city administrator. Plans fell apart after City Council declined to issue a tax abatement for the project.

It has been the council's position that the city would demand the $100,000 if the organization was unable to find an alternate site within 90 days, Mr. Jezak said.

“That 90 days is drawing to a close,” he said. The city, he said, will expect full repayment.

The $100,000 was an advance on a 15-year, $875,000 loan at 1 percent that the city offered to the society.

Lutheran Homes Society officials said in a prepared statement that “the letter of Aug. 5 summarizes our understanding of the relationship with City Council to develop affordable senior housing in the city of Maumee. We're awaiting response from City Council.”

With the society abandoning the land, it leaves the site open for other projects, such as working with the schools about the possibility of building an new elementary school there.

Councilman Doug Brainard said that it is an idea that is being explored, but no decisions have been made.



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