A sizable chunk of what was known as the “sheep farm” across from Don Scott Field in northwest Columbus might become athletics fields for the city of Upper Arlington.
Columbus City Council approved an ordinance Oct. 1 to allocate $5.3 million for the city to buy the property at 2425 West Case Road across from Don Scott Field after months of lobbying by northwest Columbus residents who want the property preserved as green space and parkland. The deal has not yet closed.
But the city has been talking to Upper Arlington about selling 34 of those acres to the suburb, and an additional 15 acres to Dublin City Schools for future use.
That land is next to Wright Elementary School, which is in the Dublin district.
Upper Arlington City Council is scheduled to hear the first reading of legislation for its purchase Oct. 8.
The sale of the property would help Columbus pay for the acquisition but leave only 8 acres for parkland and green space, including a proposed shelter house and walking path.
Upper Arlington wants to buy the acreage because the landlocked suburb needs more space, said Debbie McLaughlin, the city’s parks and recreation director.
She said her city would build baseball and softball diamonds, plus a field for soccer, lacrosse and football. There also would be six or seven “mini fields’’ for young children.
Upper Arlington organizations would get priority in using the fields, she said.
Dublin schools officials said they also need land.
“Our schools are already overcrowded, and the board of education took the opportunity to purchase this land for future district use that could otherwise have been housing, and that is a positive for our community,” spokesman Doug Baker said.
The possible sale of the land and how it might be used have angered some Columbus residents, including Roy Wentzel, who pushed city officials to buy the property from OSU.
“We don’t want their sports fields in our parks,” Wentzel said. “The citizens of Northwest Columbus would be appalled and insulted if this happens.”
Columbus resident Ellen Carol Jones told Columbus City Council on Oct. 1 that northwest Columbus “is in desperate need of parkland, especially large community parks as well as amenities that other parts of the city of Columbus and adjoining suburbs have.
“What we do not need, and most certainly do not want, is a 34-acre sports complex,” she said.
Columbus officials emphasized that any plan to sell a portion of the property would require another vote by council.
“The purchase of the property is only the beginning of the story,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown said.
Brown, who leads the recreation and parks committee, has said there’s enough space on the site for Upper Arlington, Dublin schools and Columbus residents, but it must be for Columbus residents first and foremost.
“The whole point (of) going through (with) the deal on that site was to look out for our own recreation and parks,” she said.
Both Upper Arlington and Dublin would pay the same price Columbus is paying: $90,121.32 per acre. That would mean Upper Arlington would pay $3.06 million for the 34 acres and Dublin schools $1.35 million for the 15 acres.
“We were interested in a collaborative effort that would benefit us all,” said Robin Davis, a spokeswoman for Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther.
The city of Columbus and OSU have until Dec. 31 to close the deal. Nick Cipiti, who leads the Northwest Civic Association, said although his group and residents didn’t want the land to become a high-density development, they’re concerned about plans to sell off the bulk of it.
“We’re all disappointed to a degree,” Cipiti said.
Brian Hoyt, spokesman for the Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks, said the city wants to maintain green space while recouping some of the cost of its purchase, which was not budgeted.
“If there is an opportunity for us to mitigate some of the unplanned costs and maintain green space, we see that as a great opportunity,” Hoyt said.
Columbus Recreation and Parks was scheduled to hold a meeting on the plan at 6 p.m. Oct. 3, after ThisWeek’s press time, at the Carriage Place Community Center, 4900 Sawmill Road.
Columbus Dispatch reporter Rick Rouan contributed to this story.