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Published: Sunday, 12/10/2006

Removal of brush hurt lot values, developer's suit against city says

One of the developers of an upscale subdivision in Perrysburg Township is suing the city of Toledo for more than $3 million for its alleged role in clearing out thick brambles and brush that had shielded its unsold lots from the sight of a nearby railroad.

Old Granite Development Ltd. of Waterville claims in the suit filed on Friday in U.S. District Court in Toledo that the 13 lots it is developing in the Cambridge subdivision along River Road have depreciated in value since late spring when the brush was cut, going from about $145,000 apiece to $40,000 each.

Some houses that have been built elsewhere in the subdivision cost about $750,000, the suit claims.

Marvin Robon, an attorney for the developer, said that without the natural barrier it has been tough finding buyers for the properties.

"It looks like a junkyard when the train is there," Mr. Robon said.

The developer claims that the city is responsible because the contractors that removed the brush were working under a contract with Toledo.

The contractors were installing a water main in the right-of-way of the railroad, CSX Transportation Inc., as part of a governmental project to provide more municipal water to the northern portions of Wood County on the south side of the Maumee River, according to the lawsuit.

The developer's lawsuit claims that the contractors not only removed areas of the brush situated on the developer's property, but also damaged a drainage pipe that has resulted in flooding.

Brian Schwartz, a spokesman for Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, said the city could not comment on pending litigation.

The suit is seeking more than $1 million, and to triple that award under a state statute that applies to cutting down brush, Mr. Robon said.

It is also seeking $2 million from the nongovernmental defendants.

Those defendants are Ric-Man Construction Inc. of Sterling Heights, Mich.; Vermilion Land Clearing Service of Amherst, Ohio; and C. Edwards Landscaping Inc. of Mantua, Ohio.

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