Residents tell council they want to stay near water plant

City aims to buy homes, says owners want to sell

A portion of the 27 homes that will be demolished on Collins Park Ave. near the The Toledo Water Treatment Plant.
A portion of the 27 homes that will be demolished on Collins Park Ave. near the The Toledo Water Treatment Plant.

Toledo’s controversial plan to buy homes along the eastern edge of the city, next to the municipal drinking water plant, drew a group of worried property owners to a city council hearing Tuesday to deliver a unified message: We don’t want to sell.

Mary Anne Acevedo, 66, of 646 Collins Park Ave. said the city offered $40,000 for her home.

“I don’t want to sell and I don’t plan on it,” Ms. Acevedo said. “I put about $30,000 worth of work into my house and had it sided, gutted the whole kitchen, did new plumbing, and I told the city that my house is done and I can retire.”

Council authorized the Bell administration to use $700,000 to buy homes near the Collins Park water treatment plant for a mandated expansion of the East Toledo facility. Councilman Earlier this year, a majority of council agreed.

Shaun Enright, who lives in East Toledo, introduced legislation last week to rescind the uncommitted portion of that funding, and council voted 8-4 in favor. Tom Waniewski, Mike Craig, Paula Hicks-Hudson, and Adam Martinez cast the dissenting votes.

Mayor Mike Bell used his veto power Friday to strike down that move — which effectively put that $700,000 back into play. In a letter to council, Mr. Bell said: “As Councilman Craig accurately pointed out, the transactions that have occurred involve willing buyers and willing sellers.”

Public Utilities Director David Welch said the city has purchase agreements with the owners of 408, 428, and 662 Collins Park Ave., but the city needs to buy up to seven more homes.

The homes’ prices range from $50,000 to $71,000, he said.

Councilman Steven Steel told council he knows a property owner who had not intended to sell but felt compelled by the thought the city might seize houses. But Bell administration officials adamantly said they have not threatened eminent domain and have no intention of using it.

Steve Nemecek of 724 Collins Park Ave. is not convinced.

“Someone from the city called me and I said I didn’t want to sell,” Mr. Nemecek said. “... We bought these homes to retire. I look out of my house and see a beautiful golf course but they want to tear down houses and put up a fence with razor wire.”

There are 28 homes, and 27 owners, on the street targeted for the expansion.

Longtime East Toledo politician Peter Ujvagi on Tuesday acknowledged the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has mandated major upgrades to the drinking water plant but said it did not require the city to raze homes.

“The EPA is not making you tear down 26 homes. ... You should stop using that as cover,” Mr. Ujvagi said.

Mr. Enright said his legislation last week was needed because property owners have not been told of the plan for the water plant expansion and he accused the Bell administration of destroying a neighborhood. Councilman Lindsay Webb said she wants to work with Mr. Enright on legislation that will give the neighborhood a greater say.

Nine votes are needed to overturn a mayoral veto.