Upper Arlington moved a step closer Oct. 8 to the $3.15 million purchase of land across from Don Scott Field for what officials say will be the development of a 34-acre youth athletics complex.
City Council heard the first reading of legislation Oct. 8 to authorize the city to enter a purchase agreement with the city of Columbus for 34 acres at 2425 W. Case Road in northwest Columbus, part of what is known as the Ohio State University sheep farm.
A second reading is scheduled Oct. 22, and council is expected to take a final vote on the deal with the city of Columbus on Nov. 19.
Northwest Civic Association President Nick Cipiti said his organization of residents is opposed to the sale of the land which coupled with the sale of 15 acres to the Dublin City Schools would leave only about 8 acres of the nearly 58-acre site for a community park.
Northwest Columbus residents lobbied strongly for the sale of the land by OSU to Columbus so a park for residents could be developed. The city and OSU have a $5.2 million purchase agreement in place.
"We're continuing to reach out to other organizations, homeowners association, condo associations, to let them know where we stand," Cipiti said.
He said response from those groups is "trickling in."
"Some of them are with us and some of them are happy with the plan as it is, Cipiti said. "It's not many, only two so far. Everyone else wants to use the space for Columbus."
Cipiti said he planned to meet with NWCA members this week and next.
"We'll just kind of go from there and see how it goes. We need to sit down and plan out our activities to be most effective," he said. "We can't just shotgun it."
He said there is a sense of urgency to bring as much pressure to bear before agreements are signed.
Currently, the ordinance before Upper Arlington's City Council includes a provision that would make it effective immediately upon passage.
Deputy City Manager Emma Speight confirmed Oct. 9 that provision would eliminate local residents' ability to overturn the purchase agreement by referendum vote.
According to Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Director Debbie McLaughlin, the city needs the land because it doesn't have enough fields for sports that serve 5,000 Upper Arlington youths each year, and because the city is landlocked and has no available space to develop an athletics complex.
"This will allow us to address the shortage of field space that we have," McLaughlin said.
"Our fields are overused, and we do not have land space available to build athletic fields."
McLaughlin said the proposed purchase price equates to $91,228 per acre. She said that is "much lower" than current land costs in Upper Arlington, which she said can be up to $1 million per acre, depending on location.
UA would finance the acquisition by issuing bonds that would be paid off over 20 to 30 years, she said, in addition to using $450,000 from a 2016 sale of property on Upper Chelsea Road.
Development plans for the fields haven't been finalized, but Upper Arlington is eyeing the construction of baseball and softball diamonds, plus a field for football, lacrosse and soccer.
The proposed purchase is supported by Upper Arlington youth athletics organizations for lacrosse and baseball.
Clayton Hall, president of Bear Cub Baseball, said his organization is struggling to accommodate practice and game needs for the more than 900 children who take part in the youth baseball program.
"We are at a field shortage," Hall said. "There's no way to say it any more clearly.
"Our numbers have grown each and every year for the five years I've been involved. Adding four fields will greatly alleviate a lot of it."
Of the 17 people who addressed council Oct. 8, seven supported the land purchase and nine opposed it. Several of those against the plan live in Columbus.
Another Upper Arlington resident didn't indicate support or opposition, but asked city officials to go back to the drawing board in an effort to reach a more equitable land-use plan for northwest Columbus residents.
Judy Hirschfeld noted City Manager Ted Staton has indicated the Upper Arlington Senior Center needs $2 million in repairs or to be rebuilt.
She questioned whether the community's need for more athletics fields outweighs the needs of its oldest residents.
"Why does Upper Arlington not have an appropriate location for seniors?" Hirschfeld asked.
"I think quality of societies is judged by how well they treat their young and their old, and it seems that UA is lopsided.
"We go way overboard with our funds and facilities for the young and forget the old," she said.
"I recommend that council rethink what they're going to do with 34 acres, and I recommend they look hard for a site for a structure for the seniors of Upper Arlington."
Councilwoman Sue Ralph said she recognizes Upper Arlington "certainly would like to have more fields," but added she wants more information from Columbus as to why its leaders are seeking to retain only 8 acres of the land available. Still, she noted the offer is on the table and council must consider it.
"The fact that (Columbus) put the land for sale, it's their decision to do that," Ralph said.
"I would like to know more about what Columbus is thinking and why they're thinking that."