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Published: Friday, 3/9/2007

Central Catholic expansion gets crucial vote of approval

A five-phase, multimillion-dollar plan to expand Central Catholic High School's Cherry Street campus over a period of a decade or more received a crucial stamp of approval yesterday.

The five-member Toledo Plan Commission voted unanimously in favor of the school's institutional master plan, moving the proposal ahead to City Council next month.

The plan involves finishing the Gallagher Athletic Complex, building an enlarged $4 million visual and performing arts center, creating two new practice fields, and ultimately constructing a $15 million science and technology building.

Some details of the plan have raised concerns in recent months among the diocesan school's neighbors. For instance, the third phase involves buying and demolishing homes belonging to or rented by about 30 families on Palmer and Austin streets to make way for the practice fields.

Central Catholic officials have been meeting with members of Lagrange Village Council and Lagrange Development Corp., and leaders of the two community groups said yesterday that many of their initial concerns have been eased.

"We as a neighborhood wholly support their master plan," Beth Lewandowski, village council president, told the commissioners.

Terry Glazer, executive director of the development corporation, was more reserved in his comments, but still lent support to the project.

"We don't think this is the best land use decision to expand the campus into the neighborhood," he said. "But we do understand that Central Catholic is landlocked" and needs room to grow.

Additionally, $1,000 will be paid to families displaced by the building project as an incentive for them to relocate somewhere in the neighborhood, Mr. Glazer said.

The money will be provided by DelGil Properties, which is purchasing the land for Central Catholic, he said.

In other matters, the commission voted unanimously to reject a proposal to erect a 130-foot-tall cellular phone tower on a portion of Heather Downs Country Club in South Toledo.

The request was put forth by T-Mobile USA Inc. and Heather Downs Land Development Ltd., although no one from either company came forward yesterday to defend the application.

T-Mobile requested a 30-day deferral from the plan commission last month after a group of neighborhood homeowners expressed concerns about the tower being built near their backyards, possibly lowering property values and marring the look of the neighborhood.

The neighbors included Toledo council President Rob Ludeman, who lives along Glen Ellyn Drive.

Mr. Ludeman said yesterday that a meeting last week involving phone company representatives and 60 neighbors ended without a compromise, so convincing the commission to approve the tower would have been an uphill fight for the project applicants.

Moreover, the initial recommendation of plan commission staff was for commissioners to disapprove the tower.

"I did not talk to anybody that lived in close proximity to the golf course that was happy to have a cell tower in that area," Mr. Ludeman said.

Yesterday the commission also approved a plan establishing an overlay zoning district for the Marina District project in East Toledo, and created an architectural review committee for the project. Chairman of the committee will be the plan commission's director. Thomas Lemon is the commission's acting director.



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