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Toledo Zoo buys land along Anthony Wayne Trail

The Toledo Zoo has purchased a portion of the once heavily contaminated former Jennison Wright property along the Anthony Wayne Trail.

The 8.95-acre parcel, previously owned by Ron Gorney as trustee, is part of the larger South Toledo site where the company once processed coal to produce asphalt pavement sealer — the product known locally by the brand name Jennite — and apply creosote preservative to railroad ties.

The zoo closed on the property last week at a price of $150,000. It also spent about $50,000 in surveys, paperwork, and additional due diligence.

Jeff Sailer, president and chief executive, said the landlocked zoo has no immediate plans for the vacant land but is “always looking at properties around our perimeter” for potential development. He said the zoo also sees the purchase as “part of an overall push by us to be the anchor of this area and help the whole area thrive.”

“What attracted us to this is that right now, there’s nothing going on with it at all,” he said. “Because we’re always looking for ways to improve this part of town, we took the opportunity to buy it.”

Should other parcels become available, the zoo would view them with the same potential, Mr. Sailer said.

The Gorney property is a small part of the corridor along the trail that makes up the approach to the zoo. Mr. Sailer said it is a benefit to the community as well as in the zoo’s own best interest to ensure the area is aesthetically attractive.

The site remains a brownfield, so no animals will be kept on the property should it be developed in the future.

“We would work with the Ohio [Environmental Protection Agency] on addressing any environmental issues with it and then look at some sort of developmental opportunity in the future that falls within whatever the agreed mitigation is,” Mr. Sailer said. “We won’t do [any clean-up] until we have some sort of idea of what the EPA would want, and it would involve the other property owners.”

Norfolk Southern Corp. railroad, its subsidiary, Pennsylvania Lines LLC, and the City of Toledo own other parcels of the larger tract that extends beyond the former Jennison Wright property.

The site previously became the subject of years of regulatory sparring between Ohio EPA and two railroad companies — Consolidated Rail Corp. and Norfolk & Western Railway Co. — that, including corporate predecessors, had actually owned the property for decades and leased it to Jennison Wright.

But in 1994 and 1995, according to a subsequent EPA report, Conrail and N&W spent about $6 million to remove the worst of the known contaminants from the site, including 39,500 tons of “tar-impacted” soil, 885 tons of tar and sludge from tanks, 129,118 gallons of water, and 2,100 tons of debris.

The railroads’ consent order with Ohio EPA also resulted in the removal, decontamination, and recycling of about 460 tons of steel and the crushing and re-use of 3,350 tons of concrete to backfill excavations on the site once that material too was decontaminated.

That work was detailed in a May, 2004 “decision document” that also described future plans for monitoring the site for any future spread of remaining contamination in its soils or groundwater.

But Dina Pierce, a regional spokesman for Ohio EPA, said the railroad companies and American Premier Underwriters — the renamed Penn Central Corp., a third railroad entity involved with the property — subsequently agreed to a different remediation plan under Ohio’s Voluntary Action Program.

The Lucas County Economic Development Corp. assisted the zoo in the purchase by holding an option on the property.

“The zoo is a legacy partner of the community,” Pete Gerken, Lucas County commissioner, said. “We were happy to partner with them and helped anchor the site for them. They took the option over from us and closed the deal.”

Mr. Gerken said the zoo’s acquisition of the land is a positive move for the community.

“This was a brownfield property going nowhere. This was a cancer in the middle of South Toledo,” Mr. Gerken said. “It gives the south end a much better potential to get development where it’s sorely needed.”

 

Posted By: The Blade on May 7, 2019.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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