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Published: Wednesday, 2/8/2006

Council decides to wait on Westgate moratorium

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council President Rob Ludeman yesterday delayed introducing Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's proposed 180-day moratorium on new development in the Westgate area to allow the area's district council representative to review the plan.

Some council members expected to see the moratorium proposal in yesterday's agenda review session, where council decides which legislation to vote on at the next council meeting. But Mr. Ludeman said he wanted District 5 Councilman Ellen Grachek to see the plan first.

Ms. Grachek said she appreciated Mr. Ludeman's gesture. She said she's leery of imposing a six-month moratorium on one of Toledo's busiest commercial districts.

Mr. Finkbeiner and a group of Westgate-area residents called for the moratorium Monday as the first step in establishing a pedestrian overlay district that would ensure that future developments at Westgate would have an "urban village" character.

Such a district would have to be recommended first by the Toledo Plan Commission and then adopted by council.

Mr. Finkbeiner has been battling against some features of a planned Costco store development at the Westgate Village Shopping Center. The plan commission is to vote tomorrow whether to recommend approval of the plan to council.

The moratorium would not affect that project.

Liz Holland, chief executive of the company that owns Westgate and much of the property directly across Central Avenue, said 180 days won't interfere with her plans for that location. But she said adoption of a pedestrian overlay district prescribed by the city's zoning code could halt development at the Secor Road-Central Avenue intersection.

She said the zoning rules are so restrictive, it would require all the property owners to agree on any development proposal.

"My fear is it would result in no development," she said. Ms. Holland said she has not seen the mayor's plans.

Mr. Finkbeiner said yesterday he trusts the plan commission will incorporate both Ms. Holland's design plans and the desires of some neighbors for a pedestrian friendly shopping area when it votes tomorrow.

But he said Ms. Holland's plans so far did not include enough of the features demanded by the neighbors' group. As obstacles, he cited the gas station planned for the front, two drive-throughs rather than one, and a public space he said was tucked into the rear.

Mr. Finkbeiner and the Westgate neighbors claim the changes are required by the 20/-20 comprehensive plan council adopted by 2000.

Ms. Holland contends the 20/-20 plan is only a guideline, and that the permit she is seeking is controlled by city zoning law.

A pedestrian overlay district emphasizes "walkability," prohibiting parking lots and drive-through lanes in front of buildings - standard features in most strip shopping centers.

Stephen Herwat, the executive director of the plan commission, said he doesn't know if the mayor wants the pedestrian overlay district that is spelled out in the code, or a custom district designed just for Westgate.

The city commissioned an overlay district plan for Westgate in 2002, but it was never implemented because the planner never submitted a finished version, Mr. Herwat said.

In other action, council members were invited to become "trouble-shooters" for the primary election May 2.

Jill Kelly, director of the Lucas County board of elections, said photographs of the elected officials who agree to help would be included in quarter-page ads planned to run in The Blade, and which will be provided at no charge by the newspaper.

She said any elected official on the ballot that day would not be allowed to work the polls.

Ms. Kelly said the job pays $7 an hour, and would last from 6 a.m. until about 10 p.m. on Election Day.

She said the board is also looking for poll workers.

Joe Zerbey, vice president and general manager of The Blade, said he agreed to provide the free space, valued at just over $8,000, as a public service to Lucas County. He said the content of the advertisements is up to Ms. Kelly, not The Blade.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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