Opening the DorrWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Since 1990, eight different proposals have come before the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission to discuss the property at 3541 Dorr St. Seven times these proposals came before Toledo City Council; before May 25, 2010, council disapproved each one.
Approval for a “Planned Unit Development” (PUD) project was sought by Dorr St. Development LLC to create a 20 unit multifamily housing complex.
The plan commission recommended approval — if 52 conditions were met — and this was on the Toledo City Council Zoning committee agenda on May 19.
Jerome Parker, the attorney for the development group, gave a presentation May 19, focusing on the creation of a “conservation easement” of almost three acres as being of benefit to the neighbors. Parker said the $4 million project will create 100 jobs and would be a benefit to the community.
Parker said he was sympathetic to concerns raised at the Feb. 8 public meeting about college students being tenants. But he said, “Be they students or anybody else, that’s not a legitimate reason to turn down an otherwise meritorious project or to make assumptions as to how those people will behave … My point is not all college students behave in ways that are described by some.”
One of the concerns also raised with Richard Ross’s involvement, Parker said, “Who owns a project isn’t something that is a legitimate reason to turn down a project.”
Ross was the owner of the Dorr Street property until he transferred it to the development company, was said to only have a 5 percent interest in this latest project.
Council President Wilma Brown spoke against the project: “I just want to make one statement, then I’m going to be finished with this, and I will tell you in the beginning I’m going to ask for this to be sent without recommendation and of course I will be voting no.”
Brown said, “When you say all students are not alike, but most of them are when they are living in residential areas.” She focused part of her comments on concerns with Ross and other projects, including a project on Byrne Road. It was supposed to be single family homes but she said Ross moved in six to eight college students per home, “harassing the neighbors, tearing up everything.”
“I would have no problem with this if it was to rent to families, but it is for college students,” Brown said. She said this would ruin the quality of life in the neighborhood. “I will not be voting for this but it will be up to the rest of the colleagues and whether they can sleep at night if they pass this and that’s all I have to say.”
As part of the discussion on this item, Councilman Michael Ashford asked for an opinion from the city’s law department on whether denying approval based on the residents was allowed.
The three residents who spoke in opposition to the project echoed the comments made by Brown. None of them believed the conservation easement was of any benefit; they felt the land was useless since it was wetlands and two ditches. They also disputed the traffic study results that said this project would not impact traffic.
The request for approval of the PUD was sent to council without recommendation. Two council members confirmed the Law Department did communicate to council that disapproval, based on who may reside there, could open the city up to litigation.
On May 25, the vote for the Dorr Street PUD occurred. No comments were made by any member of council before the vote. Rob Ludeman, Adam Martinez, Joe McNamara, George Sarantou, Steve Steel, Tom Waniewski, Lindsay Webb, D. Michael Collins and Mike Craig voted yes.
Ashford, Brown and Phil Copeland voted no.
After ten years of several different developers attempting to gain approval, the vote by council was done in one minute and five seconds. Dorr St. Development, LLC can now move forward with its project.
It’s clear more needs to be done to unite the student population and the neighbors, by the city and UT.
Toledo Free Press contributor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog Glass City Jungle.