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Three strikes you're out

Alex Green • Jun 13, 2014 at 4:00 PM

green@oc-register.com

Former Port Clinton Mayor Tom Brown says the city is up to bat with no balls and two strikes.

Its initial strike, Brown said, came from not listening to plans presented by Jet Express managers to beautify Waterworks Park when the business giant operated a parking lot on the Jefferson Street Pier years ago.

Council turned a deaf ear to Jet Express' plans back then, he said, and the business later relocated to a site on private property near the drawbridge where it stands today.

Strike one.

Not to mention, the city lost about $300,000 in annual revenue from the parking lot when it moved to private grounds, according to Brown.

Around the same time, during the late 1990s when Brown was mayor, a development company called the Puller Group out of Indianapolis presented a vision for the lot similar to developer Mike Rose's existing plans.

A boardwalk, marina and a hotel were a part of the concept, but it never materialized due to public opposition, Brown said.

Strike two.

Now the city seeks to hit a home run with its back against the wall, an approach questioned by certain critics, particularly Citizens Organized for Responsible Development, or CORD.

City leaders are in negotiations with Rose, CEO of Washington Properties, to transform Waterworks Park into a multi-million dollar lodge, boardwalk and storefront area with other amenities.

CORD is circulating a petition in an effort to create a voting initiative on November's ballot which would give citizens a say on whether the city can develop public parks into commercial areas. The group needs to collect at least 150 signatures for the item to be included on the ballot.

One of Brown's criticisms of CORD is they do not have a constructive plan for the city.

"If CORD had a plan, I'd like to listen to it," he said. "Maybe I'd support it."

But he feels the group only offers opinions on what the city should not pursue.

City council members are trying to look forward and execute their plans in spite of the petition.

Councilwoman Margaret Phillips said Tuesday's council meeting got a bit heated between CORD members and council when a member said they will continue with other initiatives.

"That is their right," Phillips said. "Having a park is great if you have the money for its upkeep. However, of the almost 5,000 people who live in Port Clinton, not many use it unless they are attending a baseball game or stopping for lunch."

These activities are not revenue generators, she said.

Rose's project would only develop a portion of the park, and green space that CORD hopes to preserve will still be left, she added.

"Once the park's revitalization is complete, people will see a better Waterworks Park, one that is handicap accessible," Phillips said.

Phillips agreed with her fellow council member Jerry Tarolli, who believes Rose's plan would only add to some of the revitalization already occurring downtown.

"There's so much excitement downtown, we're moving Port Clinton forward," Tarolli said, suggesting Rose's plan fits in. "There's new businesses, there is so much good news with the (ODOT grant)."

The city was awarded more than $2 million in ODOT funds this week to improve city sidewalks, crosswalks and building facades among others.

City council hopes the ODOT funds will go towards a bigger picture of beautifying downtown Port Clinton.

How big the picture becomes may hang on the the success of CORD's petition, now circulating around the city.

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