Saturday, Mar 24, 2018
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Parking lot dispute roars on at Stranahan

The circle of life may be playing out in The Lion King inside the Stranahan Theater but, outside, a circle of concrete barriers could make life more difficult for patrons of the show.

A dispute between the nonprofit trust that operates the Stranahan Theater and Great Hall and the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, which owns the land, has evolved regarding the use of certain parking spaces at the shared complex on Heatherdowns Boulevard.

The Scottish Rite is asking the trust to pay for the use of about 390 parking spaces not included in the trust's lease of the property. The trust has so far refused.

Yesterday, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Bates dissolved the temporary restraining order requested by the trust that prevented the Scottish Rite from putting barriers around specific parking lots, which means the Scottish Rite may erect concrete barricades around 391 of the 1,213 total parking spaces available at the complex. The parking area in question is the one closest to Cass Road.

"I don't know. I don't know," said Ward Whiting, executive director of the Stranahan Trust, when asked what the order means for the future of the shows. "We will have to discuss with the Scottish Rite what they want to do now and we will do that."

According to a request for a temporary restraining order filed by the trust against the Scottish Rite on Feb. 15, the two entities have co-existed for decades at the complex. The complex sits on about 55 acres of land and consists of a single structure composed of three buildings - the theater, the Great Hall, and the Masonic Temple.

The trust has a 99-year lease signed in 1966 for the portion of the property that the theater and Great Hall are located on, the court complaint said. It is "without payment and renewable forever," it added.

On Jan. 18, the Scottish Rite delivered concrete barricades to the complex with threats that it would prohibit the trust from using certain parking lots that were not contained within the leased area. While testifying before Judge Bates yesterday, Mr. Whiting said that taking away parking spaces from Stranahan events may lead to fewer events being booked there.

Throughout the more than three-hour hearing in common pleas court yesterday, attorneys for both the trust and the Scottish Rite spoke of the historical use of the complex. Mr. Whiting and Charles Yeager, a trustee of the Stranahan Theater Trust, testified that although there was a cooperative existence, the trust embarked on many facilities improvements without asking for reimbursement from the Scottish Rite.

Attorneys for the Scottish Rite questioned the men on a $3 surcharge put on each ticket sold at the complex. Attorney Thomas Heintschel of Toledo noted that money was taken in by the trust to pay for improvements to the parking but was never given to the Scottish Rite for use of their lots.

After the hearing, Mr. Heintschel said the trust had refused a solution that would have involved paying rent for those spaces. He added that no decisions have been made about what was next and that leadership for both groups likely would get together soon.

Meanwhile, the much anticipated musical The Lion King is one week into its five-week run at the Stranahan Theater. Yesterday, attorney Doug King, a partner of Mr. Heintschel's, said parking for the show could be interrupted. There "is a possibility of it being affected, sure, depending on what we work out or not work out or don't work out," he said.

Before his ruling, Judge Bates said that he had hoped the two parties would have worked out their parking problems prior to arguing the issue in court. He added that when considering an injunction, the court "doesn't do what it wants to do, it does what is has to do within the law."

He said the complex has signs separating and identifying lots for the Stranahan Theater and Masonic Temple as well as a past practice of closing off certain lots for use of guests to the Masonic Temple when both parties had events. He further noted that bills for services such as snow plowing also were separated by lots.

"There is a strong likelihood that the [Scottish Rite] would win this case," he said before dissolving the temporary restraining order.

He added that the Scottish Rite could not interfere with the passages into and out of the complex but it may close the "southwest lot as well as the northwest lot."

Contact Erica Blake at: or 419-213-2134.

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