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Clark deal could protect land, save money

Thousands of water customers could benefit from agreement, commissioner says.

Clark County commissioners will sell a conservation easement for 134 acres of land along the Mad River in Mad River Twp., a deal designed to protect the land from development and potentially save water customers money.

Commissioners voted 2-0 recently in favor of selling an easement on property located near Interstate 675 and Spangler Road to BW Greenway for $298,000. A total of $10,000, however, must be returned to the company for annual inspections of the property to ensure the county follows the terms of the easement.

The county purchased 165 acres of property in an auction in 2007 to eventually develop a wellfield on the property as a backup water system for Park Layne, Miami County and portions of Huber Heights.

Clark County Department of Utilities Deputy Director Chuck Bauer said the property was purchased with about $500,000 of utility department funds.

Bauer said selling the easement to BW Greenway will protect the property from future development, help pay down the department’s debt load and could potentially save water customers money.

“The utility department wanted to find ways to help pay for the debt, and selling the conservation easement fits with our needs because of our intent to use it as a wellfield. It was a win-win for the utility department,” Bauer said.

Bauer said the agreement between the county and BW Greenway will likely be finalized at the end of January.

Commissioners John Detrick and Rick Lohnes supported selling the easement to BW Greenway. But David Hartley previously said he wanted officials to get more information about the potential for development on the property.

Detrick said prior to the agreement that development there is unlikely.

“This is an opportunity for the citizens of Clark County to make some money and preserve also, because I don’t think this area will ever be economically developed,” Detrick said.

His reasons were four-fold: The property is in the approach for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, it’s in a floodplain, it has some of the richest soil in the county, and the sale would bring in funds for the utilities department to keep costs down for area residents, Detrick said.

Detrick called the deal a great opportunity for the county.

“This is a phenomenal real estate transaction, and you’ve got a revenue stream to keep your costs down for the 11,000 water customers that you serve in Clark county. It won’t go to all of them, but it will go to 6,000 of them,” Detrick said.

Hartley said previously that he was against advertising the property for bid because officials would not delay the decision to allow commissioners more time to get more information about the potential for the property.

“This could be really prime at some point for economic development,” Hartley said. “It’s not right now, but at some point in the future it could.”

B-W Greenway Community Land Trust is a nonprofit that acquires land in the region to preserve open space.

BW Greenway received $230,000 Ohio Public Works Commission grant that allowed them to purchase a conservation easement from the county.

The organization also received $68,000 grant from the Upper River Fund.

Leigh Ann McCulla, vice president of BW Greenway, said the organization wanted to preserve the land to protect water in the area.

“It’s a water quality sensitive area,” McCulla said. “You just have to be careful where you develop and what property you want to preserve.”

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