By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Principles won out over profit Monday evening as Bowling Green City Council voted unanimously to give land to Habitat for Humanity.
The city will transfer the former site of the Manville Avenue water tower to Habitat for Humanity for the first two homes to be built by the organization in Bowling Green.
“I’ve heard a lot of positive things about this transfer,” council member John Zanfardino said. “I’m looking forward to working on the houses.”
“I think this will be a great addition to our city,” council president Mike Aspacher said.
But not everyone shares that enthusiasm. When the proposal to give Habitat the lots was first introduced a couple months ago, Bowling Green landlord Bob Maurer sent a letter to city officials questioning the plan. While Maurer said the donation is a “noble gesture,” he suggested the city should reconsider.
”We would point out that the three lots in question are not worthless,” Maurer wrote. “If they are (zoned residential) the value is over $100,000. We would pay that amount in cash for them.”
“At a time when there is a ‘budget problem’ is it a good time to donate $100,000 of the taxpayers’ monies to two people? The City of Bowling Green must not have any financial problems if it can fund a $100,000 donation like this,” Maurer wrote, referring to city efforts to boost a sagging general fund.
But Mark Ohashi, director of Habitat for Humanity of Wood County, quickly pointed out that the benefits of Habitat houses go far beyond two individuals.
“The benefit is generational. The impact may look like you are only serving two families, but the implications of decent housing extend past the home,” Ohashi said. Habitat homes turn families into contributing members of the community and lead to better health.
“There are all sorts of risk factors with substandard housing,” he said. “Our goal is always through decent housing we’re creating better citizens.”
The organization has 37 built homes on donated lots throughout the county – but never in Bowling Green.
“Acquiring land in Bowling Green has been hard,” Ohashi said.
Since the water tower removal, the city has maintained the grass lot. But the property has no long-term use for either the utilities department or the city, Bowling Green Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell explained. So city staff met with Ohashi regarding the Manville site.
City Council appeared to have no doubts Monday evening that Habitat homes were the best use for the property.
Council member Scott Seeliger said its projects like this that helped the city earn its recent ranking as one of Ohio’s best small cities to live in. And council member Sandy Rowland said this action shows that Bowling Green is “a helping and caring community.”
Council member Bruce Jeffers said the Habitat homes will be a good fit with the city’s plans to revitalize the East Side.
After the meeting, Aspacher said the offer from Maurer to pay $100,000 for the lots was not considered. “To the best of my knowledge, there was never a formal offer,” he said.
As Ohashi shook hands with every council member after the meeting, Aspacher offered his plumbing skills on the proposed Habitat homes.