How many of the "facts" circulating about the proposed Marina District project can really hold water?
At the first city-hosted informational forum on the Marina District project, Sandusky City Commissioner Craig Stahl said the public's vote on this issue will determine the city's future.
With an escalating level of public debate, different citizens' groups are claiming to have "the facts."
So here are the top ten truths and myths about the Marina District project:
1. The city would be selling the waterfront property to be used for the Marina District project.
MYTH. The city would sign a long-term lease with the developer, but the property would still be owned by the city. However, the details of any lease have yet to be ironed out, said Scott Schell, city economic development specialist.
2. Commissioners have chosen to let the citizens decide what they want on their waterfront.
TRUTH. The November ballot will include an advisory vote on the Marina District project per the decision of Sandusky City Commissioners.
3. If the advisory vote doesn't pass, the project won't be able to move forward.
MYTH. While the voters do have a say, it is only an advisory vote. Commissioners could still decide to move forward with the project if they have a majority vote.
"Under the city charter, a majority of four votes passes an ordinance but an emergency votes requires five," said Don Icsman, city law director. Although the public's vote is not binding, "what better way to find out what the public feels than to ask them?" Icsman said.
4. The developer, John Eymann of Meacham and Apel Architects, has revised the Marina District project based on citizens' concerns.
TRUTH. After discussions with city leaders and citizens' groups, the project was reconfigured to include increased park space and enhanced waterfront access for the public. The sports arena was taken out of the site plan for the waterfront property.
5. Tax Increment Financing is a tax abatement.
MYTH. The Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, monies will be used to fund the city hall portion of the project, but it's not the same as a tax abatement. It actually works through a partnership with the city schools. "So the school district can benefit," Schell said. Schell said the city will work with the school to determine what percentage of taxation on future property improvements will go towards the redevelopment debt and what portion will go the schools.
6. The Marina District project will take about 8 to 10 years to complete.
TRUTH. Phase 1 of the project will be the redevelopment of the former Surf's Up property along with the construction of the hotel; phase 2 will be the redevelopment of the current Battery Park site; phase 3 will be the city hall site. Approval from different boards will be needed along the way.
7. The 10 to 12-story hotel and residential condominiums will block the view of the waterfront from the street.
MYTH. According to the site plan for the project, the sight lines from the street will actually be enhanced. The view to the water will be more direct from the Perry Street, Washington Street, Meigs Street and Market Street rights-of-way, according to the city.
8. The Marina District project will give the public park space "three layers" of protection.
TRUTH. Any future changes to the public park space will require approval from the city commission and approval from the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources for a sublease. The city also plans to give a conservation easement to the Erie MetroParks or another third party, according to Schell.
9. The Sandusky Sailing Club will be forced to move if the Marina District project passes.
MYTH. The city has already drafted a long-term lease agreement with the sailing club, said Interim City Manager Don Miears at the most recent City Commission meeting. The proposed plans for the Marina District project include keeping the Sandusky Sailing Club on the property it has occupied for years.
10. The Marina District project will limit public access to the waterfront.
MYTH. According to Eymann and the city, the public will have enhanced waterfront access along with increased public park space through the Marina District project. There will be new waterfront park space open to the public year-round on the former Surf's Up property, according to the site plan. There will also be new access to Springer's Wharf.