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Ottawa Hills panel against razing by 2-1

Secor plan demolishes 12 homes to add roundabouts

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    A meeting of the Ottawa Hills City Council was packed March 6 to discuss the potential project.

    THE BLADE
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The three-member Ottawa Hills streets committee voted against reconstructing Secor Road for the second time this month.

The controversial project, which proposes to widen the road from West Bancroft Street to Markway Road and add medians and roundabouts, has faced vocal opposition.

A dozen houses in Ottawa Hills would need to be demolished, and if they go, so would the property taxes they generate for the village.

It’s a joint undertaking between Ottawa Hills and Toledo, and it can’t proceed without the support of both jurisdictions.

Thursday’s vote was 2-1, while the same vote taken March 3 was unanimous.

Committee member Rex Decker changed his mind, voting in support of widening the street that bisects Ottawa Hills and Toledo’s Old Orchard neighborhood.

“This is a very hard decision,” Mr. Decker said. “I’m trying to figure out, looking 10 years down the road, where is it best for Ottawa Hills to be?”

Ottawa Hills’ full council on March 6 voted to table a decision on the project in favor of negotiating further with Toledo officials after months of dissent in the community.

Streets committee members discussed those negotiations Thursday morning for more than an hour in front of an audience of about 30. They ultimately recommended against moving forward with Katherine O’Connell and Robert Reichert voting to leave the road as-is.

The full council is to make its decision at its regular meeting set for 7:30 p.m. March 20 at Hope Lutheran Church on Secor Road.

Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson sent Ottawa Hills Mayor Kevin Gilmore a letter on Tuesday detailing Toledo’s commitment to preserving the community feel between Ottawa Hills and Old Orchard, should the project go through.

“The city of Toledo is committed to making sure the integrity of the neighborhood is maintained when this project is complete,” the letter read. “We will partner with the village to calm traffic, maximize green space, improve landscaping, and provide both pedestrian and bike access through the corridor.”

Toledo officials also agreed to soften the footprint by constructing a 4-foot median instead of 10-foot, but the homes would still have to come down, said Marc Thompson, Ottawa Hills village manager.

The home acquisitions and road reconstruction would cost about $11.3 million. It would be funded mostly through grants and cost Ottawa Hills about $98,000 overall for its part.

“I think while it’s really hard to say no to this, and the thought of federal funds to fund needed improvement to a major street that we all use every day is really appealing, I think this plan lacks particularity,” Ms. O’Connell said.

Toledo and Ottawa Hills officials began discussing Secor Road during the spring of 2015. For years, concerns about traffic and safety have been bubbling about the two lanes each way that each measure just 9 feet across.

“The road has to be repaired, whether or not we choose to do it through this project. The road does need to be repaired,” Mr. Decker said. “And if we’re going to turn down this one now, we have to be prepared for how are we going to do it. And where are we going to get the money?”

Ms. O’Connell countered saying the majority of the council’s constituents have made it clear safety is a concern, but they don’t support the solution proposed by Toledo.

“It’s about 90 to 10, the number of people who have spoken against this project and people who have spoken in favor, maybe 95 to 5,” Ms. O’Connell said. “Overwhelmingly, the citizens seem to be opposed.”

Larry Mitchell, who owns property on both sides of Secor, was the lone audience member who spoke in favor of the plan during Thursday’s meeting.

“I do support the project,” Mr. Mitchell said. “It’s going to hurt a little bit, but the pros outweigh the negatives.”

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

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