Sandusky citizens' groups weigh in on the Marina District

SANDUSKY Many residents and city officials are hoping the Marina District project will change the tide of Sandusky's waterfro
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Many residents and city officials are hoping the Marina District project will change the tide of Sandusky's waterfront.

Others would like to chart another course for the shoreline.

Both camps were able to see for the first time last week how the project could change Sandusky for better or for worse.

The Marina District project calls for the redevelopment of the City Hall, Battery Park and former Surf's Up properties along Meigs and Water streets in downtown Sandusky. The property along Water Street at the foot of Meigs Street -- currently home to the Sandusky Bay Pavilion, the Meigs Street Pier, Damon's Grill and the Battery Park Marina -- could transform into two buildings at least 10 stories high featuring commercial space and condominiums. Next door in what is now Battery Park could be a seven-story hotel and more residential property.

John Eymann of Meacham and Apel Architects gave a presentation on the Marina District project at Monday's City Commission meeting. After seeing the 3-D images and aerial concepts, the Sandusky City Commission voted to approve the simple ballot language for residents to vote on in November.

Eymann said Meacham and Apel worked hard to address residents' concerns, especially regarding public green space, and hope for a favorable ballot outcome. According to the concept, the public park space provided by the Marina District project could increase public waterfront access.

"We went back and basically redesigned the park spaces," Eymann said.

Another issue is how the Marina District project will alter the look of the waterfront.

"I challenge people to actually drive down Meigs Street ... you can barely see the waterfront," said Commissioner Dennis Murray Jr. "This plan will significantly open up those views."

The Sandusky Mainstreet Association supports any development that happens within the downtown and surrounding area, said Executive Director John Lippus.

But it will ultimately be Sandusky's residents who make the decision. Here's what two groups of concerned citizens say about how the project is shaping up so far:

-- Citizens for Responsive Government says...

Sandusky resident Tim Schwanger, spokesman for Citizens for Responsive Government, said the group appreciates the efforts to refine the proposed Marina District project.

"However, we are ready and waiting for the public debate to resolve whether or not long-established public property should be turned over to private development," the group said in a news release.

While the group is looking forward to the vote in November, they are not entirely satisfied with how the issue will appear on the ballot.

"We would have liked to have seen more specific language," Schwanger said of the ballot language approved by city commissioners.

"If the city commission voted to proceed with this project via a developer agreement, all aspects of the project would be included in the document for commission vote," the group said in a news release. "Citizens should be afforded the same opportunity."

"We would have liked the public to vote on exactly what they'll be getting," Schwanger added.

The group is not opposed to the development project, but would like to see it relocated. The group has suggested alternative locations, such as the former Mac Iron property.

The Marina District's location as is will discourage redevelopment south of the project, the group said. They added that this would be the exact opposite of what project proponents are promising the project will bring.

The group insists that more questions need to be addressed before the vote in November. One such question is whether the 18 acres of land dubbed "public property" will be partially occupied by a parking lot and the Sandusky Sailing Club.

"We want citizens to know it is acceptable to disagree with proponents of the project," the group stated.

Schwanger said he ultimately hopes Sandusky's citizens cherish the waterfront and vote to protect it.

-- Sandusky Now! says...

Sandusky Now! is a political action committee recently formed by Citizens for Sandusky's Future, a group created a year ago in support of the city commissioners. Sandusky Now! was started specifically in support of the Marina District project.

Vyki Wilson of the Sandusky Now! campaign committee said the group wants to ensure there is a positive voice for growth in Sandusky.

Sandusky Now! member Jeff Krabill voiced his support of the project at Monday's City Commission meeting.

"Having seen the new proposal, I'm very encouraged," Krabill said. "Waterfront access issues have clearly been addressed ... green space issues have clearly been addressed."

"We all feel strongly that Sandusky just has to grow," Wilson said. "We want to support this issue as it goes to ballot."

"With the commission's passage of the ballot language and the developer's rework of the project layout, there is a new sense of optimism and enthusiasm," said committee Chairman Matt Ehrhardt in a news release.

Wilson emphasized the preservation and enhancement of the public green spaces and voiced the group's appreciation for the effort made by developers to keep parks open to the public.

Sandusky Now! believes that the project will also improve the look of the downtown waterfront.

"We were glad to see they're going to open up the view," Wilson said. "Right now you really can't see the lake."

The group maintains that the placement of the project is vital to its success and being right on the water will be a strong marketing point for potential condo residents and commercial businesses.

Group member Matthew Bedee added that the redevelopment project will offer "green" architecture opportunities for the city to conserve energy and become increasingly environmentally-conscious.

"We will have to wait until November to find out if (Eymann) will be getting the green light to proceed and move beyond the proposal stage," Bedee said. "I like to think that he will and we will start to see the growth in Sandusky that we so desperately need."