During Bexley City Council's annual retreat last week, discussion centered on how to best proceed with the redevelopment of the Ferndale Place/Mayfield Place neighborhood in southwest Bexley.

"We need to be better educated about the hurdles we face to be change agents" and promote development in the area, council President Lori Ann Feibel said at the Feb. 5 meeting at City Hall.

The city is developing the Schneider Park athletics fields in the Ferndale/Mayfield neighborhood, with completion scheduled for this fall. In addition, the Community Improvement Corp., the city's nonprofit development organization, has purchased two of the 18 residential rental properties in the area through a city program in which the CIC acquires properties when they go up for sale, renovates them and eventually sells them back to private owners.

During the retreat, council members, Mayor Ben Kessler and CIC members discussed how to assess the extent of the environmental contamination in the area, which was the site of a landfill in the mid-20th century.

Last fall, council approved a $290,000 expenditure from the city's recreation fund to remediate contamination that was discovered during the development of the Schneider Park athletics fields. A subsequent environmental test completed in December showed elevated levels of arsenic, hydrocarbons and other contaminants of soil in the city's right of way, said Frank Reed, an environmental attorney the city has hired.

"The data we have right now doesn't suggest a threat to human health," he said.

Although the December environmental test found no immediate danger, Kessler said the city mailed letters at the beginning of the February to all Ferndale/Mayfield property owners and residents notifying them of those test results, Kessler said.

Reed and environmental consultant Atul Pandey said they submitted a proposal to the city to conduct more comprehensive testing of the two properties that the CIC purchased in the Ferndale/Mayfield neighborhood. Kessler said the further environmental testing could help the city get a clearer picture of the extent of the contamination and how to proceed with redevelopment.

"Instead of continuing to test each property separately, we would make some assumptions that we have similar conditions," in the area Kessler said.

Council is evaluating Reed's and Pandey's proposal and was scheduled to discuss the issue at its Feb. 13 meeting, Feibel said.