Canal Winchester residents stop sale of Westchester Golf Course

SCOTT GERFEN
editorial@thisweeknews.com
Villages at Westchester

When Jimmy Ryan and his wife went searching for a new home in the early 1990s, they were attracted by plans for a golf course south of Canal Winchester.

The property they bought on what would become the ninth fairway of the Westchester Golf Course was perfect for the newlyweds.

"We had just gotten married and we took a chance, and we made a pretty good investment in a home out here," Ryan said. "We also understood that this land could be nothing more than a golf course or green space."

That's why the Ryans and many other residents at the approximately 900-home Villages at Westchester surrounding the golf course became concerned after hearing Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks was in contract to purchase the course for about $1.8 million and potentially turn it into a park.

The residents mobilized, creating online petitions and informational websites and expressing fears about what a potential sale of the course could do to property values.

Those efforts prevailed.

Metro Parks' board of commissioners announced Sept. 15 that it no longer was in contract to purchase the course, which is owned by developer Charlie Ruma.

Attempts to reach Ruma about the sale were unsuccessful.

"Westlinks Inc. and Metro Parks mutually dissolved the contract between the two entities," Metro Parks executive director Tim Moloney said after the meeting at Walnut Woods Metro Park. "We're not looking at the course at all as a potential purchase."

Cheryl Marshall was among residents who attended the meeting. She and her husband downsized and moved to a house on the course three years ago.

"I don't want it to be anything other than a golf course," she said. "I think it adds to that small-town type of mentality. I want to keep it cozy and sweet."

Canal Winchester Mayor Mike Ebert also had expressed concerns about the sale, noting there already are five Metro Parks facilities within a 10-minute drive from the community.

Although the city was not involved in the process, Ebert and other city officials met with Metro Parks leaders about the potential sale in January.

"I don't think the residents ever thought it would be a Metro Park, or they wouldn't be living there," Ebert said. "I think the city and council members had the same feelings. It was a good day for everybody."

The course has been for sale for years, but Metro Parks only recently became aware of the property, Moloney said in an interview before the Sept. 15 meeting.

"When we acquire or aggregate land, we look initially at what is the natural resource," he said. "The golf course has an unbelievable environmental impact on central Ohio. It has a mile and a half of frontage on Walnut Creek."

Metro Parks also had an opportunity to receive a grant reimbursement from the Clean Ohio Fund.

"For the residents of Franklin County, who we work for, this was an unbelievable value to be able to develop a park based on $6,200 per acre," Moloney said about the potential purchase. "If we would use the Clean Ohio money, that land cost to the taxpayers drops down to $2,800 per acre."

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