Interchange Land Disputed
by Jennifer Mellen

A proposed interchange on Route 58 in Amherst, just north of Oberlin, is looking less and less likely due to a disagreement over the price between the company that owns the targeted land and the Turnpike Commission.

The Ohio Turnpike Commission made an offer based on an appraisal several months ago to buy the land from its current owners, Consolidated Investors Group . CIG rejected the offer and hired its own appraiser to assess the land in hopes of reaching a more flattering estimate. Although these results have not been released, the group feels it should receive more money than the face value of the land, based on the conjecture that the land is worth now does not reflect what it could be worth in future.

“At this point we haven’t even formally heard from the investor group,” Public Relations Director for the Turnpike Commission Lauren Hakos-Dehermann said. “That land is obviously something that’s needed for this project…so without it we can’t move forward.”
If CIG does not agree to sell, there’s the possibility of a counteroffer. “That land is absolutely necessary for the interchange,” Hakos-Dehermann said. “[If CIG rejects the offer,] we’d have to begin negotiations.” If CIG doesn’t sell, there are no other landowners in a position to do so, given the size of land needed for the project. While it was known from the start that additional lands might be needed to augment that plot, the Turnpike Commission has made no other offers. The CIG property is central to the success of the whole venture.
Should the interchange happen, the widened roadway would spell increased traffic for Oberlin, changed traffic routes and potential competition with business establishments already in the area.

It would also make the trip to Oberlin from the east a little bit easier. “It would make it 20 minutes shorter,” first-year Tom King said. “The current interchange to Route 10 missed…you have to go through back country roads to get to Route 10 for about 20 minutes. It is quite annoying.”

According to New Russia Township Trustee Richard Williams, the interchange proposal came up several years ago. It was supported by the Turnpike Commission, but not by the trustees of Lorain County. “We thought it was just another example of urban sprawl, which was not needed at this time,” Williams said. “Supporters see it as a form of economic expansion. We see it as a further decay of the inner city.” He feels the long-term negative impacts of an interchange outweigh the short-term economic growth.
Lorain County Planning Director Ron Twining agrees there are pros and cons, but he supports the expansion. “The county’s on record saying we want to do what we can to encourage the interchange. That’s not a very popular stance, [but that’s how we feel],” Twining said. As far as the community effects of an interchange, “it’s all based on procedures and policies and how they’re carried out. The burden is on the local level.”
Plans for turnpike expansion have been in the works for some time now. Several years ago, the Ohio Turnpike Commission was appointed by the state legislature to explore the feasibility of a North-South corridor, a turnpike spanning the state. Currently, there are no real plans for the corridor. “It was the feeling of the committee and of Ron Twining that a North-South corridor would tend to create more sprawl,” former county trustee Richard Reinoehl said. The interchange in Amherst is one part of the original plan.
“Right now, it’s been on low profile, so there’s not been a lot of discussion or interest generated in the community,” Williams said.


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