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Published: Thursday, 7/17/2008

Group seeks input for East Toledo upgrades

BY MEREDITH BYERS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A nonprofit community development corporation in East Toledo plans to seek residents' input - and ask for their financial support - to help make upgrades in the 43605 ZIP Code area.

A proposal designed to "improve the community character and quality of life" will be at the forefront of a meeting of East Toledo residents tonight, led by Brad Peebles, executive director of the River East Economic Development Corp. River East officials want to create a special-improvement district.

Under Mr. Peebles' plan, River East would collect a fixed fee from property owners and use that money to help enhance the attractiveness, safety, and desirability of its neighborhoods.

The fees, which would not be based on the property's value, would be collected through the property tax process and would appear on tax bills as similar to a special assessment. The proposed fees are $75 for residences, $300 for commercial properties, and $500 for industrial properties. The funds would be overseen by a board of directors created specifically for the district by River East.

"If East Toledo wants to begin to be part of its own destiny, it has to invest in East Toledo. With this improvement district program, the funds generated here stay here, are invested here, and are helping East Toledo," Mr. Peebles said.

If all the property owners in East Toledo contributed, Mr. Peebles said the fees would generate about $838,000 annually. Under the proposal, the fees could be collected for a maximum of 10 years before a renewal petition would need to be circulated.

For the district to be established, a collection of signatures on a petition must represent 60 percent of the frontage, or the part of the property that is adjacent to the public right of way, on public streets within the proposed area. Or it would require signatures from 75 percent of property owners within the boundaries of the district.

The petition would need to be approved by the city of Toledo. Mr. Peebles hopes the signatures will be collected by the fall so the petition can be presented to council in early winter.

The fees, which would be mandatory if council approves the proposal, would appear on tax-collection statements sent out by the Lucas County auditor. The auditor would collect the fees and make a direct payment to the district.

Mr. Peebles said today's 6 p.m. meeting, at the East Toledo Family Center, 1020 Varland Ave., will determine the next step in the process. If residents support the plan, Mr. Peebles said he'd begin preparing a program that can be presented to the public within the next two months.

Mr. Peebles said his organization received $245,000 from the city of Toledo seven years ago, but received about $101,000 for the 2007-08 fiscal year.

The organization will receive no funding from the city for the 2008-2009 year because its application was incomplete, submitted late, and thus did not score high enough by the city's standards to be funded, according to Kattie Bond, director of the city's Department of Neighborhoods.

Ms. Bond said she had no further comment on the proposal.

"In essence, our development efforts within this portion of Toledo have been hampered," Mr. Peebles said, citing the lack of funding.

Before the petition is circulated, a comprehensive plan outlining the utilization of funds will be prepared.

Programs that could be made available through the creation of the district include housing rehabilitation, infrastructure improvement projects, a "clean and safe program" focused on streets and alleys within the district, and commercial facade improvement.

East Toledo community leaders are skeptical of the proposal.

"We already pay for these services through the city. Our area in the East Side - our people can't afford this," said Gail Wahl, the leader of the Victorian Hilltop Coalition, a community activist group in the area.

Robin Sopko, a co-leader of Block Watch 422A, said she can't afford $75 more on her taxes.

"It's something we're already paying for," she said.

Contact Meredith Byers at:

mbyers@theblade.com

or 419-724-6101.



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