A tale of two Marina Districts

Maybe it's something in the water. Both Sandusky and Port Clinton had waterfront development issues on the ballot this Novemb
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

Maybe it's something in the water.

Both Sandusky and Port Clinton had waterfront development issues on the ballot this November, and both so-called Marina District projects were approved.

However, both of these redevelopment plans were controversial because they will occupy public land.

As both cities face similar financial challenges, city leaders hope these redevelopment projects will jump-start the sluggish economy.

So what do these projects have in common, and where do they differ?

Here's a closer look at the projects side by side:

WHAT'S THE PLAN?

* SANDUSKY: The proposed Marina District project involves the redevelopment of 30 acres comprising Battery Park, City Hall and the former Surf's Up. The plan includes a new city hall building, 300 residential condominiums, 25,000 square feet of retail space, a 120- to 150-room hotel and a 10,000-square-foot marina building. Eighteen acres of the project will be used to preserve and enhance public park space and waterfront access, according to the current site plans.

* PORT CLINTON: The proposed waterfront resort would occupy Water Works Park, a 14-acre park with a baseball field, skate park, parking lot, Jefferson Street Pier and Derby Pond. The project would include a hotel, waterpark and convention center. A recent market study suggests building a 150- to 250-slip marina open to the public along with public amenities such as an amphitheater, fountain area, outdoor skating rink and waterside promenade.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

* SANDUSKY: The Marina District is anticipated to bring a tidal wave of revenue into the city.

Donald T. Iannone and Associates were contracted through the Sandusky/Erie County Community Foundation to conduct an impartial economic impact study of the Marina District project.

Iannone estimated the project could bring in $250 million dollars over eight years and create more than 1,000 new jobs.

That kind of progress doesn't come cheap, though. The Marina District will cost the developers more than $134 million. The city will have to chip in an additional $19 million.

Read the full summary of the economic impact study at http://www.sanduskyfoundation.org/new/exec_summary.php.

* PORT CLINTON: The waterfront resort is expected to revitalize the city with a substantial growth in tax revenue and jobs.

David Sangree, president of the Cleveland-based Hotel & Leisure Advisors, put together an economic impact study showing the project could produce $92 million in tax revenue and 516 jobs over the course of 12 years. During the same time period Port Clinton would receive $17.4 million in tax revenue, while Ottawa County would get $13.4 million. Ohio would receive the remaining $61.8 million.

The project has a slightly lower price tag than Sandusky's project, coming in at about $99 million.

Sangree said the project could "outperform" Sandusky's indoor waterparks because it has a view of Lake Erie.

THE VOTE

* SANDUSKY: With about 52 percent of the 6,983 votes cast, residents gave the green light to the waterfront redevelopment project.

The road to the polls was a bumpy one, filled with election complaints and accusations of false propaganda. From the beginning, there was a line drawn in the sand.

On one side was Citizens for Responsive Government, the self-titled "Vote No" campaign.

And there was Sandusky Now!, a political action committee formed by Citizens for Sandusky's Future in support of the Marina District.

The city presented information on the project to voters during two public forums with question-and-answer sessions that became heated at times.

* PORT CLINTON: City residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of rezoning Water Works Park with about 61 percent of the total vote. The park needed to be rezoned for the project to continue.

Port Clinton Council and members of Citizens Organized for Responsible Development, a grassroots organization, clashed after council approved rezoning the park from an intergovernmental open space district to a central business district, allowing for the hotel, convention center and waterpark.

The grassroots organization collected 309 signatures on a petition to place the zoning change on the ballot. The group has maintained that they want development, but they do not want it on public land.

WHAT'S NEXT?

* SANDUSKY: The ball is rolling now that city commissioners have voted to move forward with pre-development agreements. The project is estimated to take 8-10 years. The first step will be the condos and retail on the Surf's Up property and the hotel.

At the last city commission meeting, Tim Schwanger, representative of Citizens for Responsive Government, said the group would continue to keep an eye on the project as it moves along.

* PORT CLINTON: With the rezoning approved, city council and the developer, Puller Group, will restart negotiations. Mayor Tom Brown said he hopes to have a contract and an agreement in place before the end of the year.

As soon as negotiations are completed, construction could be underway within six months and completed 18 months after that, said Ken Puller Sr., Puller's chief financial officer.

Don Finke, spokesman for the grassroots organization, said the group was disappointed with the vote but will continue to see what other options are available for the park.