When voters go to the polls Nov. 6, Sandusky's future will be at stake.
That was City Commissioner Craig Stahl's message Tuesday night at the Marina District project informational forum.
About 75 people attended the first of two informational forums hosted by the city at Sandusky High School. Interim City Manager Don Miears and Economic Development Specialist Scott Schell began the night's discussion with a PowerPoint presentation about the Battery Park property and Marina District project.
The presentation was followed by a question-and-answer session that lasted nearly 90 minutes.
There were people on both sides of the debate. The audience clapped or booed after some of the opinions were offered, sounding at times like television sound effects.
Some residents questioned how these developments would fare during the winter. Others brought up stalled projects, such as the Rieger building.
"We have to be progressive and provide economic development," said Michael Metroka, adding that any economic progress would have a trickle-down effect.
Mark Norman asked how the condo project proposed to go behind the mall in Perkins Township would affect the marketability of the condos in the Marina District project. Miears pointed out that the Perkins condos wouldn't have a view of the water.
Tim Schwanger of Citizens for Responsive Government asked whether the downtown festivals and events would continue in the Battery Park area. City officials said they will.
"That may be true for a year or two," Schwanger said, adding the condo owners downtown had already requested the removal of playground equipment from Shoreline Park.
"I haven't lived in Sandusky for 30 years, so I don't have a desperation, which is really what I'm hearing," said William Schram in response to individuals who argued the Marina District project must happen now. "We don't have to be so desperate. We don't have to be so short-sighted."
The Marina District project was first proposed in November 2006.
After getting some feedback from the community and city leaders, the developer spent the next six to seven months adjusting the proposal.
The park space available to the public will increase through this project, according to the city's presentation.
"We've got more Battery Park; we're not just saving it," Sandusky City Commissioner Dennis Murray said. He added that if the Marina District project were to be denied in the polls, the decision may influence any future developers who might consider coming to the city.
The park space would have three layers of protection against further development: In addition to a conservation easement to the MetroParks, the city will ensure that future development would require approval by the city commission and approval from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for a sublease.
"There is no such protection currently on that space," Schell said.
The revised proposal also includes a new long-term lease for Sandusky Sailing Club.
Working on a timeline of roughly eight to 10 years, the Marina District project will be divided into the following three phases: phase one, development on the former Surf's Up property along with construction of the 150-room hotel; phase two, development of residential condominiums on the Battery Park site; and phase three, relocation of the city hall, municipal court and police department.
Schell said Sandusky's downtown is continuing to gain momentum.
"We see the Marina District as complementing this downtown growth," he said.
"On Nov. 6, the citizens of Sandusky have a very important job to do," Schell said in closing. "Will you vote for growth and opportunity, or are you satisfied with the way things are?"