Ohio State University officials are breaking new ground in preparing to sell land known as the Sheep Farm.

“We’re figuring this out as we go,” Keith Myers, OSU associate vice president of fiscal planning and real estate, told the Northwest Civic Association board of trustees at a meeting Nov. 1.

Dozens of residents concerned about development of the 57-acre parcel attended the meeting.

“We’ve never done this before,” Myers said a little later.

By “This,” Myers was referring to crafting a set of guidelines to which any potential developer of the site would be expected to adhere.

University officials are so determined to have a would-be developer follow the “vision” for the property created by a planning consultant with input from local residents that the sale won’t be closed until after any rezoning is completed, Myers said.

In introducing Myers, former NWCA board President John Ehlers said he first became aware the Sheep Farm, located adjacent to the OSU Airport, was being considered for sale about 15 months ago when State Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, contacted him.

For the past year, Ehlers said, civic association representatives and neighbors of the property have been meeting to “brainstorm” ideas for what people would like to see when the site is developed.

Ehlers said people who would like see the entire Sheep Farm transformed into a park are probably going to be disappointed.

Universities in Ohio regularly divest themselves of excess real estate, according to Myers, and that nearly happened last fall with the Sheep Farm.

In this case, the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences wants to raise money to spend on the Waterman Farm, and proceeds from the sale of the Sheep Farm would help pay for that, Myers said.

“It’s pretty standard operating procedure,” he said.

However, after hearing from Duffey and others about the concerns neighboring residents had regarding redevelopment, Myers said he pulled the Sheep Farm from a bill in the legislature that would have cleared the way for sale of property by several public universities.

“They asked us to think of a different way of doing this,” Myers said.

If the university had just put the site up for sale in the normal course of things, he said, “we’d get every multifamily developer in the state, probably.”

Instead, the “Case Road Neighborhood Design Guidelines” were created to put developers on notice about what both the university and residents are hoping to see on the property.

“We’re very proud of the guidelines that the planners have put together,” Myers said.

“I think that’s all very positive,” Ehlers said.

The document includes such phrases as “meaningful park space and open space,” “low-intensity uses” and “respectful of adjacent neighborhoods.”

Although final sale would not take place until after rezoning, Myers said the university wouldn’t be involved in that process.

“We’ve got enough on our plate,” he said. “We’ll keep an eye on it, but we’re not going to play an active role in that zoning.”

In addition, Myers assured the trustees and residents the university would not condone a developer promising to do one thing and then doing another.

“If they play bait and switch, I will not close,” he said. “I won’t let them do that.”

Myers said he expects the request for proposals from potential developers would be ready by the end of the year. It would then take three to four months to evaluate proposals before a potential purchaser is selected and about a year after that for the rezoning to happen, he said.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

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