A group opposed to a proposed Ohio Department of Natural Resources wetlands swap will sponsor a public forum Tuesday, Dec. 11.
The purpose of the meeting, starting at 7 p.m. in the Northwest Library, 2280 Hard Road, is to "... hear from ODNR about their plans to dispose of the only remaining natural public land in our neighborhood ... ," according to a flyer distributed by Friends of the Sawmill Wetlands.
The site in question is the Sawmill State Wildlife Education Center, 17.85 acres near the intersection of Sawmill and West Dublin Granville roads.
Klingbeil Medical Partners wants to develop that site, which has been under state control since the mid-1990s and was created in a wetlands-conservation deal developers of a nearby shopping center reached with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
"A 2008 Ohio EPA report lists it as one of only 14 wetland areas within I-270 capable of supporting amphibian wildlife," The Columbus Dispatch reported Nov. 18.
In return, the state would receive 43 acres along the west bank of the Olentangy River in northern Franklin County, just south of the Delaware County line.
The developer would create wetlands on the riverside property, which the state would own, according to a May 22 story in The Dispatch.
Invited to speak at the Dec. 11 public forum, according to the flyer, are Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation local affairs director Larry Gearhardt and Scott A. Zody, an assistant director at ODNR.
Invitations have also been extended to Gov. John Kasich, state Sen. Jim Hughes, state Rep. Mike Duffey, Mayor Michael B. Coleman and City Council President Andrew J. Ginther, the flyer stated.
Along with Friends of the Sawmill Wetlands, the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club is objecting to developing the Sawmill Wildlife Education Center, which a former spokesman for the ODNR described as less accessible to the public than the proposed new wetlands area along the river.
"We will be trading an area that has limited public access for an area with enormous public access," Carlo LoParo told The Dispatch for the May 22 story.
That cuts no ice with the Sierra Club, which in a series of "talking points" about the subject of the swap cited loss of green space, loss of habitat, loss of environmental functions and lack of consideration of the local community among reasons to oppose the plan.
"Local residents, who will be impacted by the development, have not been consulted about the decision to develop the wetlands... ," the environmental group's document asserts.
"Much of the community does not support the decision to develop the area, but there have been no public meetings, surveys or outreach to ask residents for input.
"Not only would residents be impacted by the loss of green space but, if development goes forward as planned, traffic in the area also would increase."