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Published: Thursday, 4/14/2005

Escobar acts to avoid vote on tow lot until next week

Louis Escobar, president of Toledo City Council, yesterday denied opponents of a proposed city police tow lot an opportunity to score a temporary victory.

Council's zoning and planning committee heard lengthy testimony and discussion about Mayor Jack Ford's request for a permit for the proposed lot on Dura Avenue in North Toledo.

But with critics of the proposed police storage operation outnumbering supporters at the hearing by 4-3, Mr. Escobar opted to hold the matter in committee.

He said it would be brought out of committee for a vote of the full council on Tuesday, when it is likely to pass.

Mr. Ford is seeking a special-use permit for a 21-acre site so the city police department can begin storing towed vehicles, as early as July 1.

The administration plans to take over the temporary storage of about 14,000 vehicles that are towed annually under police orders.

Those vehicles are currently kept by private towing companies until they are reclaimed by owners.

The Toledo Towing Association has filed suit in U.S. District Court against the tow lot plan, which they say will force them to lay off workers.

Mayor Ford said the tow lot will be more convenient for vehicle owners and will generate about $500,000 a year for the city's general operating fund.

Critics have focused on potential environmental problems with the site, which was used most recently for storing old vehicles.

They also have questioned the fairness of the city's request to waive requirements for paving and fence screening. The plan commission approved the waivers because the site is secluded from residences and public view.

The city contends that the environmental hazards are minimal and must be cleaned up by the current owner before the city takes possession.

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