A community meeting is being planned for early October at which Columbus Recreation and Parks officials will provide insight into what's being planned for the day the city takes ownership of the Ohio State University "Sheep Farm" property off West Case Road.
Tony Collins, director of Recreation and Parks, made the announcement at the Sept. 5 meeting of the Northwest Civic Association.
He initially identified 6 p.m. Oct. 3 in the Carriage Place Recreation Center as the date, time and location for the community gathering, but NWCA Graphics and Zoning Committee Chairwoman Marilyn Goodman said that is the same evening, but an hour earlier than the association's monthly session.
Sophia Fifner, community relations chief for Recreation and Parks who was also on hand for the meeting, said she would seek an alternative time for the community conversation.
"We want to make sure there's a space we can use and we're not kicking kids out or adults playing basketball," Fifner said.
The purpose of the meeting regardless of when it is eventually held, Collins said, is "to gather your community's input on our proposals, our ideas, our recommendations for how to move forward with the Case Road project."
After months of lobbying by northwest Columbus residents who live near the 57-acre Sheep Farm near the Ohio State University Airport, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther announced at a July 19 Community Family Night in the Carriage Place rec center that city officials were working on an agreement to purchase the property from OSU.
Nearby residents, long fearful of a major multifamily development on all or part of the site, breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Columbus officials announced Aug. 1 they agreed to a purchase contract for the property.
At last week's NWCA meeting, Collins said the latest appraisal for the 57 acres is $5.2 million.
"I told you from day one that $5.2 million is a huge hit for us," he said.
The other side of the coin, he said, will be operational costs for the new influx of green space.
Collins said his department only has about $48 million a year for operations and it needs to be spread throughout the city.
"It goes pretty fast," he said.
Any funding going toward operating the new parkland will mean funds taken from another part of the city, Collins said.
During brainstorming sessions leading to the community meeting, the director said parkland has been identified as the chief goal.
"I've been very clear that we're not going to build a senior center," Collins said. "What we're focused on is green space, a park."
The good news, Collins told his audience, is that Columbus might not have to bear the entire burden of the Sheep Farm as park property alone.
Collins said he is exploring partnering with the Dublin City School District for purchase of a portion of the site, perhaps 15 acres, that's adjacent to Wright Elementary School, 2335 W. Case Road.
It might be held as a future site for an expanded elementary building or a new middle school, Collins said.
But, "they have no current plans, none, zero," he said.
Collins said that as a result of news coverage regarding the city's interest in the Sheep Farm, Upper Arlington officials approached him about possibly partnering on athletic fields on the site.
"All of this again is draft form and thoughts," Collins said.
NWCA President Nick Cipiti asked how the organization can continue to be involved in the project, and Collins said the best thing trustees can do is help in "getting the accurate information" to residents.
"We're also willing to develop some assets," trustee Kit Logsdon said.
"There may be a time for that," Collins replied.