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Published: Tuesday, 8/17/2004

Neighbors urge rejection of community center, gym


Residents of an upscale home development in the near downtown urged a Toledo City Council committee not to approve plans by the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority to build a community center and gym on a nearby residential street.

LMHA is asking council to allow the development at Moorish and Avondale avenues, west of I-75. Council would have to waive the deed restrictions that call for only homes on the property.

Council s neighborhoods and community development committee heard nearly two hours of testimony on the proposed waiver yesterday but postponed action for at least 30 days.

The center would replace the Maurine Simmons Family Investment Center, which was in the former Gunckel School Annex at Nebraska Avenue and Collingwood Boulevard until it was forced to close in May. Toledo Public Schools plans to use the property for a new middle school campus.

Residents of Washington Village Estates, southeast of Collingwood and Indiana Avenue, said they didn t object when LMHA bought the parcels because it promised it would build single-family homes on the land.

They promised to build homes by August, 2003, said Lydia K. Allen, a resident of Washington Village Estates. Why has the city not taken that land back?

Lawrence Gaster, executive director of the LMHA, said the parcels were not developed because approvals needed from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development did not arrive until last month. By then, the agency needed a community center to serve nearby LMHA residents.

He said other parcels are being found for the five single-family homes. He said Washington Village residents would be given seats on the design committee.

Residents expressed concern about the number of people who would patronize the center, expected to have a gymnasium, day care, adult classrooms, credit union, and other services.

WilliAnn Moore, president of Organizing Neighbors Yielding eXcellence community organization, who lives in Washington Village, said the center will bring heavy traffic down a quiet street. It s a very quiet neighborhood that s undisturbed, she said.

Committee Chairman Michael Ashford and other members of the committee called on Mr. Gaster to meet with residents of Washington Village to find a compromise. Mr. Ashford said if no compromise is reached in 30 days, the waiver likely would be forwarded to the full council without a recommendation.

Contact Tom Troy at:tomtroy@theblade.comor 419-724-6058.

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