Booster

CAC's letter futile; Clinton Annex soon will be razed

School district acknowledges significance of building, but is unswayed by last-ditch effort by supporters

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People hoping to preserve the Clinton Annex are pinning what would seem their last faint hopes on a letter from the Clintonville Area Commission asking members of the Columbus school board to "stay all efforts to demolish the building."

The letter was approved during a special CAC meeting April 15 at Clinton Heights Lutheran Church, during which 16 members of the public -- all in favor of efforts to preserve the 110-year-old building on the grounds of Clinton Elementary School -- addressed the advisory panel before the vote was taken, said Chairman Daniel B. Miller.

Commission members who voted to send the letter to the board, with copies going to Superintendent J. Daniel Good and Mayor Michael B. Coleman, are Nancy Kuhel, Libby Wetherholt, Dana K.J. Bagwell, Jason Meek and Kristopher Keller.

D Searcy, who is seeking re-election to her District 9 post, and District 1 representative Rob Wood, who is not running for another term, voted against the motion.

Miller abstained from voting, as he does unless called upon to break a tie. District 6 representative Randy Ketcham was absent.

"The letter respectfully requests that the school district stay any efforts to demolish the building until it takes an opportunity to further assess the district's needs and whether the building can be preserved," Miller said. "There's definitely a high level of interest in preserving the building within the community. Many people have emotional ties to the building."

It doesn't appear the letter will do much good, according to a spokesman for Columbus City Schools.

Fencing around the structure was scheduled to be erected late last week or early this week, Communications Director Jeff Warner said after consulting with district facilities officials.

The project will get underway shortly after the waiting period expires Tuesday, April 29, he added, and will not be delayed until after classes end May 31 as a district official had indicated might be the case.

"We will be starting demolition of the site before school is let out, safely secured behind the fencing," Warner said.

Although district officials were made aware of the special CAC meeting, no one from the school board attended, Miller said. Carole J. Olshavsky, the district's senior executive for capital improvements, provided Miller with a letter stating the district's position prior to the session.

"With respect to the Clinton Annex building, the Columbus City School District has no interest in keeping or maintaining this building," she wrote. "We would have supported any plan that provided for the removal of the building from the school district's property. In fact, if it had been possible to expand the district's property to the north ... we would have created a separate parcel for the Annex property and offered it for sale.

"Absent a proposal for relocating the building, we cannot isolate the Annex property without also losing the green space (and) play space to the east of it."

The area commission's letter stated there are many suitable uses for the building that haven't yet been considered.

"Among those uses is to meet the education needs of the hundreds of lottery children who would like to attend Clinton Elementary School," the letter says. Demolishing the building and leaving an empty lot is not the highest and best use of the building. Replacement cost of the building would be many times the cost of rehabilitating the building if it is found to be needed in the future.

"None of this considers the historic importance of the building, which is invaluable and would be a tremendous loss to the community if demolished."

Olshavsky's letter did point out the building's historical significance.

"While the building does not have any continuing value for the school district, (Clintonville Historical Society President Mary) Rodgers does raise a valid point in that this is the last remaining township building from the period before Clintonville was incorporated into Columbus," Olshavsky wrote in her letter. "And while that is important, the school district is not the entity that should be preserving the building for the future.

"I would suggest that its place in history could certainly be memorialized with an historic plaque in conjunction with the artifacts that we will salvage."

Olshavsky also confirmed in her letter that the cost for the demolition project is $70,000, including abatement.

At the commission's April 3 meeting, by a vote of 6-1, with Wood again casting the lone "no" vote and Miller abstaining, the panel opted against approving the application for a demolition permit filed by the school district with the city's Building Services Department.

The vote served only to delay, not deny, the tearing down of the structure. A vote in favor of the application would have allowed city officials to issue it immediately, but rejecting the request merely requires that the district wait a full 60 days from when it was filed on Feb. 28.

At the April 3 session, Olshavsky said officials had hoped to secure the permit right away to allow for the project to take place during spring break last week.

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