WALBRIDGE - The mayor of this Wood County village made an emotional plea last night for residents to oppose a petition seeking to put an ordinance on the November ballot that, if approved, would prohibit the village from acquiring more than 1 1/2 acres west of Main Street near Railway Park.
Five residents, including two former council members, are leading the drive.
"I find it ironic that people who were previously part of the village government and tried to improve the community now are opposing the current council's efforts to continue improving the community," Mayor Dan Wilczynski read from a prepared statement during last night's council meeting.
"This is a waste of tax dollars in both the effort to address the issue and in the cost to put it on the ballot."
In March, council approved a resolution of necessity for the land, which includes 1 1/2 acres west of a business strip and an adjoining swath 35 feet wide and 150 feet long to the north of the strip, Mayor Wilczynski said.
Last night, council heard the second of three readings needed to proceed with appropriation of the property using eminent domain proceedings.
The land the village wants has been owned by Terry and Gloria Carroll since 1995.
Council President Ron Liwo said the village is trying to take only the unimproved portion of Mr. Carroll's land, which has been used and maintained by the village.
The land would be used for potential expansion of Railway Park and to provide parking for the park, businesses in the strip, and patrons of Walbridge-Fest, an annual event in the village.
Some residents have criticized the action because Mayor Wilczynski owns a banquet hall in the strip. But Mr. Liwo said the effort to secure the property "has no impact on the business owned by the mayor."
Former council members Joann Schiavone and Traci Taylor, their husbands, and resident Dennis Duffer started the petition drive. After the council meeting, Ms. Schiavone said she sees no reason why the village should purchase that property.
Ms. Taylor did not return calls last night seeking comment.
Mr. Carroll, who owns Carroll's Health and Fitness Center, 417 North Main St., could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Duffer, who was not present at last night's meeting, said using eminent domain proceeding to take the land isn't fair.
"I think there is lack of parking in that strip, and there would be a benefit to the businesses in there," he said.
Mr. Wilczynski said parking has never been a problem for his banquet hall, but added that Mr. Carroll, in the past, has obstructed garbage pickup and the fire lane in the strip center.