Developer of Sawmill Wetlands open to negotiations

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The developer set to take control of the Sawmill Wetlands Education Area says they are open to negotiating with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for a land swap.

If a settlement can be reached – some or all of the Sawmill Wetlands may remain as a state park.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Brown decided September 2 that development company JDS So Cal Ltd should receive title to the Sawmill Wetlands by the end of the month.

The City of Columbus gave the Wetlands to the state to keep as public park. The state wanted to trade the 17 acres of the Sawmill Wetlands for 43 acres next to Highbanks Metro Park.

The contract signed by Governor John Kasich agreed that if JDS So Cal purchased and restored the land near Highbanks Metro Park, they could swap that land for the “prime real estate” of the Sawmill Wetlands, according to court documents.

In 2012, Governor Kasich objected to the signed contract and the state withdrew from the contract, according to Judge Brown.

JDS So Cal sued the state and won a summary judgement. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources was ordered to hand over title to the developer. The land will cost the developer nothing, not counting past legal fees.

"There's not an ounce of green space left. Can't you just leave one little place for the animals to be?" said Paddie Strine as she and her husband measured tree trunk width to determine the age of trees.

Their calculations indicate one Elm tree at the Sawmill Wetlands is at least 100 years old.

“We witnessed some bird boxes in there. I know there's owls that come here. It's really disappointing that we can’t have a little bit of green belt in our lives,” added Strine.

Jim Schrim and David Ruma form development company JDS So Cal Ltd.

“I think there's still a window of opportunity for reasonable stakeholders, not the extreme environmentalists who have broader political objectives," said Schrim.

“In our original proposal there was no provision for us to set aside three acres of property. The state requested, because of the concerns of the environmentalists that we protect those three acres which I was more than willing to do,” said Schrim.

When asked what projects are representative of past work, Schrim pointed to the Lennox Flats apartment complex next to the Lennox Shopping Center.

"I care about the environment. I'm a conservationist. I'm also a scientist and my partners and I care about the community," said Schrim. He has a master’s degree in Civil Engineering.

Schrim said that he and his partners would be interested in hearing an offer from the state to trade the Sawmill Wetlands for farm acreage the state currently owns.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Matt Eiselstein declined to answer questions about the courtroom loss or the fate of the Sawmill Wetlands.

“ODNR respectfully disagrees with the decision rendered by the court. Currently, the finding is being reviewed prior to a decision regarding a potential appeal,” wrote Eiselstein in a statement.