Northland News

Zoo officials scrap downtown campus plan indefinitely

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Columbus Zoo and Aquarium officials have abandoned plans to build a satellite facility downtown.

Tom Stalf, president and CEO of the zoo, said officials were humbled by the stunning defeat of the proposed 1.25-mill operating levy on the May primary election ballot.

So, plans to build Downtown Adventure, estimated to cost $50 million to $65 million -- on the Scioto Peninsula have been shelved indefinitely, Stalf said.

"The most important thing we want the community to realize is we were humbled -- I would definitely apologize for the ask -- and we want to assure the Franklin County voters we will get it right this time," Stalf said.

The permanent tax, which would have raised $32.7 million annually, was defeated 70 percent to 30 percent May 6. It would have raised taxes on a house valued at $100,000 from $21 to $44 a year.

The current 10-year, 0.75-mill operating levy expires at the end of 2015. Stalf said it's likely the zoo will seek the same amount of operating funds but isn't sure if the levy request will appear on the ballot as soon as this November.

Opponents of the levy complained residents of Delaware County should share some of the burden, considering the zoo is surrounded by Delaware County land, although it is technically within the city of Columbus and Franklin County.

Stalf said looking to Delaware for revenue is a possibility.

"We have to start that process and get that information to our friends in Delaware County," he said.

On a related topic, the zoo's new Heart of Africa exhibit seems to be gaining an enthusiastic crowd. Stalf said. The zoo is 60,000 visitors ahead of its attendance goal at this time, he said.

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