Bexley city officials say the donation of a 2.047-acre site behind and to the west of 309 N. Parkview Ave. from a private landowner will advance a goal of preserving undeveloped land near Alum Creek.
Mayor Ben Kessler said amendments to legislation that Bexley City Council adopted May 28 were designed to ease concerns expressed by adjacent homeowners that the donated land could become an eyesore.
Council unanimously approved Ordinance 15-19 on May 28, allowing the city to accept the donated property from a company called Leo's Land LLC. The legislation states the company offered to donate "land adjacent to Alum Creek to the city to be used for the protection and preservation of the natural habitat."
Kessler said the final version of the ordinance includes an amendment that allows the grass to be mowed.
He said he drafted the amendment in response to concerns expressed by nearby residents that allowing the land to grow fallow would become a nuisance.
"The property can be mowed by adjacent neighbors, should they wish to," he said.
City attorney Marc Fishel said the city would have agreements with residents who choose to mow the grass that would release the city from liability.
"We would have some kind of approval agreement with that property owner that releases the city," Fishel said.
Annette Vaughan, a North Parkview Avenue resident who lives next to the donated property, said the amended ordinance addresses concerns she had expressed to Kessler and council members. Vaughan, who spoke at council's May 14 second reading of the ordinance, said she was concerned that if the grass weren't mowed, it could become overgrown with weeds, providing a breeding ground for ticks and other pests. It also could retain water and cause flooding, she said.
"I think this works out a little bit better for everybody," Vaughan said of the amended legislation.
Sean Turner, a South Cassady Avenue resident, questioned whether the city would benefit from accepting the property donation, sayiing it would remain vacant while the donor receives a tax benefit from the donation.
"I don't understand why we're taking a piece of property that's going to be controlled and owned by the city -- the citizens can't use it; it's going to be a maintenance issue; the maintenance is now the responsibility of the citizenry," he said. "The only person that it's going to benefit is the person donating the property."
Catherine Cunningham, the city's attorney for zoning and development issues, said it's common for property owners to donate property to governments for tax purposes.
"It's an incentive for people to give governments or conservation districts properties that they can get a tax benefit from that," she said.
The property owner could have chosen to donate the land to an entity other than the city, such as a nonprofit organization, that the city would have no jurisdiction over, Cunningham said.
The city doesn't "have a say over somebody selling or giving a property to any unrelated third party," she said.
Although the donated land will remain undeveloped for now, the acquisition enables the city to explore using the site for a park or other public uses in the future, Kessler said.
"Our land-use strategy calls for us to seek continuous access to Alum Creek," he said. "In my opinion, this sets us up in the position, potentially, to be able to do that."