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City gives yacht club water rights

Jason Singer • Jun 15, 2010 at 1:22 AM


Hook? Check. Line? Check.

Sinker to secure the deal? Still to be determined.

After one lawsuit and nearly a year of discussion, Sandusky city commissioners on Monday approved a lease agreement with the Sandusky Yacht Club.

The agreement will allow the club to build 30 new boating docks north of the former Surf's Up property.

Now the Ohio Development of Natural Resources must also approve the plan.

Several residents spoke out against the yacht club's expansion, but the city commission voted 5-2 in favor. Commissioners John Hamilton and Brett Fuqua dissented.

Commissioner Julie Farrar said the new boats will not block the view at the former Surf's Up property, despite many residents' fears.

The club will move larger boats to its western basin and dock smaller boats north of the former Surf's Up property, according to the plan.

"When I walk up that incline (near Surf's Up), I have to look down to see the boats," Farrar said.

Farrar added that Tom Whitted, who runs the city's IT department, will make a video recording showing how the public's view won't be obstructed.

But the view wasn't the only concern.

Tim Schwanger and A.J. Oliver, of Save Our Shoreline Parks, said there's too much uncertainty with the future of Surf's Up.

Until city officials know how they plan to use that area, Schwanger and Oliver said, how can the city can give up those property rights?

And while the view may not be obstructed from the incline, Schwanger said, the view will be obstructed from the lower area where many events take place.

Lastly, Schwanger said the city has 22 miles of shoreline, of which more than 90 percent is now private.

"It's time to say 'No,'" Schwanger said. "For me, it's not a money issue -- it's a quality of life issue. There are some things that are priceless, that you can't put a monetary value on, and (a public waterfront) is one of them."

Hamilton said he voted against the legislation because of a technicality: The commission shouldn't have passed it as emergency legislation.

"This isn't an emergency," Hamilton said. "I know we've discussed it for a long time, but we should finish that discussion and have a second reading."

In addition to obtaining the extra water rights, the yacht club will also get 19 parking spaces on the Perry Street right-of-way.

The club will pay the city $200 a year for the parking spaces and an undetermined amount for leasing the water rights to build new docks.

Interim city manager Don Icsman said the lease will likely be similar to the Sandusky Sailing Club's lease, but Icsman didn't have exact numbers available Monday night.

Several residents pleaded with the commission to ensure the city received significant financial compensation for leasing the water rights.

But ex-officio mayor Dan Kaman said the agreement helps a struggling business retain jobs -- not create revenue.

"The original thought of this was a lifeline to help the yacht club succeed," Kaman said. "It wasn't something we were looking to make money off of."

It could take money months for ODNR to approve the plan. For a similar agreement with the yacht club in 2000, it took ODNR about one year to approve the plan.

At a public hearing at the yacht club last week, some residents and others suggested the club may not have the financial capability to build the docks for several years, simply because of its large debt.

None of the yacht club's officials spoke at Monday's meeting.

The latest agreement stemmed from a lawsuit the yacht club filed in 2008. Club officials sued the city, arguing that certain city property rightfully belongs to them.

City officials disagreed and felt Sandusky had a strong case.

But when the yacht club said it was struggling financially last year and may need the extra revenue to stay afloat, city officials agreed to work toward a settlement.

The lease agreement city commissioners approved Monday is tantamount to a settlement on that lawsuit.

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