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Published: Thursday, 2/10/2005

City picks North Toledo location for tow lot

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The city of Toledo has selected a 34-acre vacant property in North Toledo as the site for a central police tow lot, city officials said yesterday.

Safety Director Joe Walter said the city agreed to pay $700,000 for land at 4510 Lint St., southeast of Detroit Avenue and Lagrange Street.

Mayor Jack Ford, who has pressed for the police tow lot, has said it will make vehicle recovery easier for citizens whose vehicles are towed by police order, and it will generate $454,000 a year for the city's general operating fund.

The plan has been strongly opposed by private tow operators, who say they earn much of their revenue from vehicle storage.

Mary Chris Skeldon, spokesman for Mayor Ford, said City Council was told of the purchase in an executive session Tuesday.

The closed-door meeting with council, held under an exemption in the Ohio Open Meetings Act for keeping real estate negotiations confidential, took place more than 24 hours after the administration already had quietly put its choice of a tow lot location on the public record.

Steve Herwat, executive director of the Toledo Plan Commission, said the administration submitted the application for a special-use permit application just before 4 p.m. Monday. The application is a public record, under Ohio law, Mr. Herwat said.

Mr. Walter said the city used a trustee as its agent to conceal that it was the purchaser. He said the price is $500,000 less than the $1.2 million the administration budgeted for land acquisition.

The site consists of two adjacent parcels owned by John F. Yoder and JFY Properties Inc., both of the same address in Holland. One parcel is vacant land, while the other has several roadways.

The nearest residential neighborhood to the two adjacent parcels is North Collingwood Park, located west of Detroit.

About 14,000 vehicles are towed by police order each year, mostly the result of crimes, failure to maintain license or insurance, accidents, or thefts. Currently, owners go to city police headquarters downtown to pay to get vehicles released, and then to one of 16 privately operated tow lots to recover their vehicle.

Council approved the tow lot concept Jan. 11 in a 6-6 tie vote broken by the mayor.

The Toledo Towing Association, representing the 16 private towing companies, has fought the proposal, saying it would destroy many of their businesses.

Mr. Walter said the administration hopes to have the tow lot running by July 1. He said the purchase is conditioned on getting the special use permit, council approval, and environmental approvals.

Councilman George Sarantou, who voted against the tow lot, said the site is "as good as it's going to get," and said council was assured it would be fenced to protect the neighborhood. But he said he believes the administration has underestimated the costs.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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