Mayor Andrew Ginther was saving the best for last for his July 19 Community Family Night presentation in Carriage Place Community Center.
With a substantial segment of the approximately 90 people who turned out for the gathering eagerly awaiting some sort of announcement regarding the "Sheep Farm" property adjacent to the Ohio State University Airport, Ginther delivered at the conclusion of his remarks that focused on how much the city has done in recent years for the northwest Columbus area.
"We hear your concerns regarding development, particularly regarding the Sheep Farm," Ginther said, and the mere mention of the property residents feared might become available for large-scale development drew applause from the audience.
The 60 acres of pasture, which OSU officials have received permission from the state legislature to sell, has been an object of more than just concern to nearby residents for several years.
A committee of residents and members of the Northwest Civic Association formed to lobby university and city officials to develop the property as park space and with public uses, such as a library or senior center.
Ginther indicated residents worried about the fate of the site can, probably, breathe a little easier.
"We are interested in gaining access to parkland, and we're working on a proposal that makes sense to the city and our residents," the mayor said.
He went on to announce the city would, by the university-imposed deadline of Tuesday, July 31, create a letter of intent regarding obtaining the Sheep Farm.
Ginther said his administration hoped to work with others to collaborate on a possible park for at least part of the property.
Although lacking in details, the announcement cheered some ardent opponents of Sheep Farm private development.
"I love it," said Roy Wentzel, a member of the Sheep Farm Committee. "We're like 95 percent there. It's not a done deal until we get to 100 percent."
Wentzel said he believes the advocacy effort in behalf of residents concerned about the potential impact of something like a major apartment complex would have on their lives.
John Ehlers, former longtime president of the Northwest Civic Association who remains involved in the organization's efforts to preserve the Sheep Farm for public purposes, said he was buoyed by Ginther's statement.
"My big encouragement tonight was to hear their willingness to submit a letter of intent to the university," Ehlers said, adding it won't matter if the site is fallow for years to come as long as it eventually becomes open space for what many consider to be park-starved northwest Columbus.
"Our goal is to make sure our city remains a city of neighborhoods that are vibrant and strong," Ginther said in his opening remarks.
He went on to extol the worth of not only the Northwest Civic Association but other homeowners associations in the neighborhood as well as the Far Northwest Coalition.
"We are grateful for what you do every day for your neighborhood," Ginther said.
The mayor went on to list city investments in the northwest side, including a new playground area at Carriage Place that is being paid for in part by a $30,000 grant from the Walt Disney Co. and a new connector from Bethel Road to the Olentangy Trail.
In the works, Ginther said, is a study of the Sawmill Road corridor between West Dublin-Granville Road and Hard Road to "improve capacity and safety."
"We continue to look at possible locations for sidewalk construction and repair," Ginther said.