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Port Clinton group seeks ordinance on parkland sales

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A developer wants to build a residential, retail, and lodge complex on 2 acres of Water Works Park in Port Clinton. A citizens group wants voters to have final say on the sale or lease of parkland.

THE BLADE
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A Port Clinton political action committee opposed to a proposed waterfront park development turned in petitions Tuesday to put a measure on the November ballot that, if approved, would require voter support before the city sells parkland.

Citizens Organized for Responsible Development turned in an initiative petition with 280 signatures, about 100 more than required to put the proposed ordinance before voters.

If placed on the ballot and approved by voters, the language would require the city to obtain voter approval at a general election before it sells, leases, or transfers park property.

The same group opposes a proposed $66 million development of Water Works Park, where Medina, Ohio, developer Washington Properties wants to build a retail, residential, and lodge complex on about two of the park’s nearly 14 acres. The site, near the city’s downtown stretch, borders Lake Erie and the Portage River.

City council members and Mayor Vincent Leone have supported the ongoing negotiations with the developer to hammer out details of a possible deal.

CORD members said the group’s proposed ordinance is about more than just the waterfront park project.

“We want to give citizens the right to vote,” said member Rick Noderer, who said the measure also would give citizens a mechanism to approve a specific project.

Mayor Leone called the petition effort a “self-serving stall tactic” to halt the waterfront project, for which the developer has requested $6 million in public support, in addition to $60 million in private investment.

Voters have shown support for development, including in 2007 when about 60 percent agreed to rezone the park to allow commercial uses, Mayor Leone said.

“We are trying to do everything we can to move this city forward,” he said.

CORD spokesman Don Finke said the group wants to protect all Port Clinton parks.

“We’re hopeful that this will be accepted by the community. We think it’s a necessary ordinance given the fact [of] how the council and administration thinks so little of public parks,” he said.

About 175 signatures are required to place the measure on the ballot, said city auditor Cole Hatfield. The Ottawa County Board of Elections must verify the signatures before the ballot measure goes to voters.

City officials continue talks with the developer about aspects of the project, and those details — such as sewer system capabilities — must be reviewed before the city considers whether it would sell or lease the parkland, Mayor Leone said.

The city won’t wrap up negotiations before a November vote on the proposed ordinance.

“We are not willing to move that carelessly,” he said.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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