Tony Collins kept his promise.
In appearing at the Nov. 7 meeting of the Northwest Civic Association, the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department director was following through on a vow he made Oct. 3 at a community session regarding the city's plan to acquire the 57-acre "sheep farm" site from Ohio State University.
At that gathering, held in the Carriage Place Community Center, Collins revealed that although the city officials planned to buy the site off West Case Road near the Ohio State University Airport for $5.3 million, much of the unanticipated expense was to be covered by selling 15 of the acres to Dublin City Schools and another 34 acres to Upper Arlington for a sports complex.
The Sheep Farm land purchase was the result of considerable lobbying by residents fearful of large-scale residential development on the property.
The news that the city intended to sell much of the land hit the hardwood of the rec center gym with a thud and drew a round of boos from northwest Columbus residents who were seeing their dream of a major park dwindle to 8 acres.
In the weeks that followed, and in light of the continued efforts by the same citizens who had urged purchase of the Sheep Farm in the first place, Collins said those plans changed.
The Dublin City Schools deal still is in the works, he said Nov. 7, but during a meeting with members of his team, the Historic Sheep Farm Committee and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown, it was decided to pull out of the arrangement with Upper Arlington.
"I made sure the (Mayor Andrew Ginther) was good with that and that (Columbus) City Council was good with that," he told the civic association trustees.
Discussions with Dublin school district officials continue, Collins said.
Once the purchase of the West Case Road site between OSU and the city is finalized, Collins said a date for the actual transfer will have to be negotiated. He said university officials want to remain on the property through the current school year.
Next summer is when the Recreation and Parks capital budget for the next five years will be updated, with the Sheep Farm property now in the mix.
A site plan and phase-in of plans for the site will be developed, Collins said.
"We don't have any timelines at this point," he said.
A woman in the audience asked if the public would have any input on the site plan. Collins said the park planning and budgeting process is not only open to the public but also would be brought to a meeting of the NWCA.
"So, yes, there will be public input, community input," he said.
"Do you know what's going to happen to the sheep?" another woman asked.
"Lamb chops," one audience member suggested.
Collins said he thinks they will be relocated to an agricultural study area on the main campus.
"I'm not sure," he said.
Nick Cipiti, president of the civic association, asked Collins if there was any chance the whole deal to buy the Sheep Farm could get derailed before the end of the year, the deadline imposed by university officials.
"I wouldn't know why," Collins said.
He discussed various projects that had been in the works for his department, but which now must be scaled back or delayed because of the financial hit the Sheep Farm purchase represents.
"We kind of jumped in," Cipiti said.
"Not kind of," Collins said.
After Collins left, Cipiti singled out Roy Wentzel, one of the leaders of the fight to get the city to purchase the Sheep Farm and keep it out of the hands of developers, to thank him for his efforts.
"It will have a profound effect on the neighborhood," Cipiti said.