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Published: Saturday, 6/9/2007

City 'For Sale' sign riles Toledo neighbors

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Elisa Roush, left, and her mother, Elinor, talk with city council candidate Karen Shanahan, who
opposes the city plan to sell the strip of land between River Road and the Maumee River.
Elisa Roush, left, and her mother, Elinor, talk with city council candidate Karen Shanahan, who opposes the city plan to sell the strip of land between River Road and the Maumee River.
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Like a homeowner whose available cash has come up a bit short, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has rooted around the municipal attic and found some property he'd like to sell.

In the city's case, it's real estate.

The first of about two dozen surplus properties has made it to a Top 10 list of parcels believed to be worth at least $100,000 each.

The list includes a partially wooded, 250-foot-wide strip between River Road and the Maumee River.

Neighborhood opposition to the sale of the River Road Park parcel, between Burroughs and Brookford drives, has risen during the week since the For Sale sign went up.

Democratic District 2 Council candidate Karen Shanahan invited people to a Rescue the Park rally today at noon. Proceeds from the sale won't be worth the long-term loss, Ms. Shanahan said.

"This is unique. Once it's gone there will never be public access again," she said, adding that if the parcel is saved, the city should consider improving it.

Current District Councilman Rob Ludeman, who successfully opposed an attempt by Mr. Finkbeiner in 1999 to sell the 1.9 acres on the riverfront, said it's a valuable asset that provides the only public access to the Maumee along that part of River Road.

The administration failed to comply with an ordinance requiring council to be given a

30-day notice of any attempted sale, Mr. Ludeman said.

But city real estate manager Andy Ferrara said council will get its 30-day notice if and when he gets a signed sale contract. The sale then would have to be approved by council.

Mr. Ferrara said the parcel is not really a park, even though it has that zoning designation. It has no formal park facilities and is little-used, he said, except maybe by teenagers as a party spot.

"It's not improved. There's no stairs, no parking," Mr. Ferrara said. "It's just open space. It's part of the old waterworks."

Michael Dougherty, who lives on Island Avenue, said he and his two sons go fishing in the park.

"It's the only access to the river by where we are," Mr. Dougherty said. "We use it all the time. We go down there and fish. People walk their dogs. I would personally want to see it remain a park."

In addition to the River Road site, the Top 10 list includes a vacant 14-acre parcel off Telegraph Road that was leased to the Trilby Youth Baseball Association in 1997 for a baseball park that was never developed.

Also on the city's for-sale list is a parking lot in East Toledo, the former Secor Armory that the city acquired from the state in 2001, The Docks restaurant complex in International Park, the Erie Street Market, the empty Madison Building downtown, and three city-owned parking garages.

Mr. Ferrara acknowledged that some of the properties on the list may be difficult to sell.

After first being touted for sale, Metcalf Field airport in Lake Township is no longer considered a salable property. The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority has a long-term lease, and the Federal Aviation Administration has invested heavily in the airport facility. Currently, the administration is investigating joint economic development zones with Troy and Lake townships.

Slices of Willys Park in West Toledo and Ravine Park II in East Toledo may also be available for sale.

The mayor has made it a goal this year to sell off some of the city's property and make the money available for the city's strained budget.

"We don't have the luxury of just sitting on a valuable property that's not doing anything," Mr. Finkbeiner said. He said that despite the "emotional attachment" some neighbors may have to the River Road site, which is near his home, the rest of Toledo's approximately 300,000 residents are more interested in redirecting city assets to maintaining city services.

He said the River Road site could provide room for two houses that could sell for more than $500,000 each, helping to keep higher-income people in the city.

City residents have public access to the river at Walbridge Park about one mile north.

The city cut spending and raised revenues this year in order to avoid an $11.9 million deficit, and is facing a deficit of up to $17 million next year.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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