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Ottawa Hills panel says leave Secor Rd. as it is

Full council will vote Monday

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    Traffic flows on Secor Road January 4. The streets committee of the Ottawa Hills Village Council has recommended leaving the road as-is, despite suggestions from engineers and other officials that widening the road could improve safety.

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The three-member streets committee of the Ottawa Hills Village Council was met with applause from community members when they delivered their recommendation to leave Secor Road as-is.

The decision made Friday doesn’t mean the proposed roadwork — widening Secor Road from West Bancroft Street to Markway Road, and demolishing a dozen homes in the process — is dead. The full village council will discuss the committee’s recommendation and take a final vote on the project Monday.

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Reconstructing the narrow, crash-prone street would be a joint endeavor between Ottawa Hills and the city of Toledo, as Secor bisects the two communities, and the project can’t proceed without buy-in from both councils.

The committee voted 3-0 to recommend the full Ottawa Hills Village Council take no action, which would effectively kill the joint project with Toledo if the full council follows suit.

Doug Stephens, administrator for Toledo’s division of engineering services, said the city has already spent about $60,000 in outside consulting and roughly $20,000 in staff time on the project.

Toledo officials have not officially voted on the matter, but city engineers have said widening the road and adding medians, turn-lanes, and roundabouts is the best option to improve safety and traffic flow in a corridor four times more likely than similar roads to have crashes. Two engineering studies — one commissioned by Toledo and one by Ottawa Hills — support that claim.

The total reconstruction cost, including home acquisitions, is estimated at about $11.3 million, though officials expect grants will fund all but about $1.8 million of the expense. Ottawa Hills Mayor Kevin Gilmore said officials from both sides agreed to split the remaining cost, with Toledo paying about $1.7 million and Ottawa Hills covering $98,000.

There has been vocal opposition from people who live on both sides of Secor Road for weeks.

Shelley Cavalieri, a University of Toledo law professor who lives in Ottawa Hills, addressed the committee Friday with an impassioned speech. She said knocking down 12 homes in Ottawa Hills would not only take away tax revenue for the village and the school district, but it would jeopardize the corridor’s neighborhood feel. The plan would also encroach about 10 feet onto properties on the Toledo side.

She urged the committee to vote against the project, contending widening Secor Road would sever the village’s link to UT, Toledo’s Old Orchard neighborhood, and Central Avenue’s commercial strip.

“You’re being asked this morning to make a falsely simple choice about a road, but you’re really charged with making a decision about the well-being of our community,” Ms. Cavalieri said. “While road experts think a bigger road will solve the traffic and safety challenges, which I think are legitimate ones, they will only exacerbate the other challenges that we as a community face.”

But some Ottawa Hills residents do want to see the project to move forward.

Several implored the council — and fellow residents — to consider the safety improvements, aesthetic boost, and added value that they believe a new road would bring.

“We really need to support and get behind this opportunity to increase property values,” said Larry Mitchell, who owns property on both sides of Secor Road. “Property values have gone down every year, and they’re going to keep going down because it’s ugly and it’s dangerous.”

Ottawa Hills’ council is expected to make their decision during their public meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Hope Lutheran Church, 2201 Secor Rd.

Contact Sarah Elms at: selms@theblade.com or 419-724-6103 or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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