Thursday, September 07, 2006

Zoo Capital Improvement Levy, Nov. 2006 Election

Concerns regarding the Toledo Zoo Levy
The Zoo levy is for 10 years and will generate approximately $8,600,000 in revenue each year. During the July meeting with the residents in South Toledo, Mr. George Oravecz, Toledo Zoo spokesperson, commented that the first $1,000,000 would be used for operating expenses. In reading the levy request, there was no mention of operating funds for the Zoo in this levy for Nov. 2006, only capital improvement funds. It was confirmed a County Administrator of the Board of Lucas County Commissioners that the revenue generated from this fund could be used only for capital improvements.

There is a desire on the part of the Zoo to increase the size of the aquarium. It was explained to the group that the 300,000 gallon two story tank would cost $42,000,000 and would be an additional expense not included in the current Capital Campaign Levy. So when we read about the new aquarium, we must keep in mind that additional funds will need to be raised to pay for this portion of the Master Plan.

The neighbors were concerned about the homes purchased over the past few years on Amherst. They are not pleased with the condition of the properties and wondered what the zoo long-term plan was for the properties. It is believed they may have been purchased to end criticism of neighbors over the noise at the zoo; however, the neighbors are now distressed over the management of the properties. Mr. Oravecz assured the group that they were being managed and will be maintained by the zoo.

The question regarding the “Institutional Campus” zoning was prime on the minds of the neighbors as they are concerned about “eminent domain” authorization provided by this zoning classification. It was explained the zoo could not invoke eminent domain, but when pressed, it was explained the zoo “would not” invoke eminent domain. In reading zoning regulations, the regulation does not contain subclasses of types of institution, so the zoning does authorize eminent domain for the Zoo. Over the past few years, a number of properties on Spencer and Amherst have been purchased by the Zoo to allow for expansion.
If the Zoo hopes to utilize a portion of monies generated by the Capital Campaign levy for operating funds, it would indicate they still are not working within their budget, how then will they operate if they continue to expand. Though Toledoans “Love their Zoo” we need to be sure we can afford it.

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