B.J. White, the Clintonville Area Commission's District 9 representative, used the Dec. 18 meeting of the Sharon Heights Community Association to provide residents more information on the potential of a YMCA branch going up on property currently part of the Ohio School for the Deaf campus.
The nearly 50 people who arrived in the basement meeting space of Gethsemane Lutheran Church represented a record number, White said, for the monthly joint sessions she holds for her constituents and the community group.
White asked for a format in which audience members wrote down their questions on notecards, which she then read and directed toward panel members that included Lou Maynus, superintendent of the Ohio School for the Deaf as well as interim superintendent of the Ohio State School for the Blind, and Gary Comer, wildlife management supervisor for District One of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Some in the audience who reside near the proposed Y chafed at the format, preferring instead a more-spontaneous means of expressing their concerns and voicing their gripes about the usual triumvirate of diminished property values, increased noise and problematic traffic. White started the meeting by outlining the process by which ownership of the 27 acres of state-owned property could be transferred to the city for exclusive use as a YMCA branch. The site is on the northeast corner of the Ohio School for the Deaf property, just south of the Indian Hollow neighborhood off Center Woods Drive.
White said the proposed transfer would require an act of the legislature, under a conveyance bill that would contain language limiting its future use, and that would come about as a result of negotiations between state officials and YMCA executives.
"Those are the two plays, and right now it's in discussion," she said. "To be honest, I can't tell you anything more."
If the property transfer happens, White said, the possibility of a YMCA branch would enter a "holding pattern" while a feasibility study takes place.
White said the CAC would be part of the public input on the proposal.
"I'm part of the food chain that falls under the mayor," she said. "I want to be an advocate. I want to be a conduit of information. I want to be the best advocate I can.
"When we do know more, I will certainly burst at the seams to let you know."
In response to complaints murmured in the audience that only a limited number of people was made privy to the proposal at an Oct. 28 meeting to which Indian Hollow residents were invited, Maynus said she became superintendent of the School for the Deaf only in July, but she was informed the site had been the subject of discussions for some time.
"Over the years, I have been told that many folks have been interested in that property," Maynus said.
When the idea of a community center for the acreage was raised, the superintendent said she thought it was an exciting proposal, one she shared with staff members and neighboring property owners.
White said in the wake of that meeting she has heard equal parts support and opposition for the proposal.
Comer, in response to a question about any disruption for wildlife if the site were developed, said it was already at one time used as a soccer field.
"It wouldn't have very much habitat value, other than a feeding area for geese," he said.
Alice Waldhaue, chairwoman of advocacy group Friends of the Ravines, presented an easement map that outlined the Bill Moose Ravine, which she said is protected against development through the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District. The proposed YMCA site is north of the ravine.
Regarding predictions of traffic issues, White suggested those concerned should visit existing YMCA branches in central Ohio on Saturdays to see for themselves.
As far as property values, White noted that she is a real-estate agent and said parks, walking paths and other recreational facilities are regarded as amenities in establishing what property is worth.
"I think property value would be a steep argument to win," she said.