Canal Winchester City Council agreed last week to turn fallow city lands north of Canal Winchester Middle School into productive farmland.
The 75-acre property, located at the end of Parkview Drive just north of the middle school, has been owned by the city since 2006 and is listed as park district property by the Franklin County Auditor's Office.
Thanks to an agreement approved Feb. 3 with Groveport resident James Stevenson, 30 acres will return to their former use as farmland.
Canal Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire explained that ultimately, the city would like to use the site for more athletic fields, as an extension of the fields in Walnut Park just south of the land, but that project is still a few years off.
"This is land that was previously farmed prior to the city acquiring it, so the hope will be that we'll lease it for a short time and then make some additional athletic fields," Haire said.
Councilman Rick Deeds said he was concerned about the potential of chemical runoff into Walnut Creek.
"There's a ditch and there's a greenway," Councilman Steve Donahue said. "Plus, we received a greenway grant through the schools when we purchased the land to extend the wetland area out even further, so there's enough area to filter it."
Haire said Stevenson currently leases 13 acres adjacent to the property from the Canal Winchester school district and wanted to lease another 30 acres of the 75-acre property from the city.
Council members voted unanimously to approve the lease agreement, which will run from March 1, 2014, through Feb. 28, 2017. The total annual cost to Stevenson will be $3,750.
The ordinance was approved as an emergency so the lease could go into effect by March 1.
"Mr. Stevenson wants to make sure and have time to prepare the land and get the crops in the ground by April," Haire said.