What will be the real cost of Marina District?

SANDUSKY Person after person peppered Sandusky City Commission with concerns Monday night that city
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Person after person peppered Sandusky City Commission with concerns Monday night that city officials were underestimating the total cost of the Marina District and that taxpayers would suffer the consequences.

But city manager Matt Kline guaranteed the city won't move forward with the project unless the financial numbers make sense.

"If it's not reasonable, we won't go through with it," he said.

According to Kline, the project hinges on whether officials can find a suitable location for the new city hall. Under the proposed plan, developer John Eymann will buy the current city hall property for $2.5 million and build the Marina District's hotel in its place.

Consequently, officials must find a new property for city hall that can be funded by the $2.5 million and the revenue generated by the hotel's Tax Increment Financing, or TIFs. It must also meet certain requirements for parking and provide 59,000 square feet of space.

Kline said officials have a "50 to 60 percent chance" of finding a suitable location. But nearly a dozen residents who spoke at the meeting were incredulous.

"You can't build a city building for the price that's being tossed around," said A.J. Oliver, treasurer for the local chapter of Citizens for Responsive Government. "The city government needs to give us their best guess as to how much the new city hall will cost, or you have to wonder about theirfinancial acuity."

Oliver cited the new city hall in Elyria, which he said cost$40 million, as evidence. But Kline rejected his assertion.

"I think there's an assumption that we'll have to construct a new city hall in a new building," he said. "(But) we're looking at all options."

According to Kline, the city could build a new building on land it already owns, or it could lease a building to house city hall. Both options would reduce the cost of the project.

City officials said they will send out Requests for Proposals on Oct. 15 and will ask for them back by Nov. 7. After that, Kline estimated it would take four weeks to sort through the proposals.

"We'd like to keep it downtown -- that would be our preference," he said. "But if we didn't get any good proposals, we might expand our options."

Residents also voiced concerns over the Sandusky Yacht Club's lawsuit against the city, which it filed Thursday in Erie County Common Pleas Court. Several speakers feared that a drawn-out legal battle could stymie the Marina District's construction.

"It could take a couple of years just to get to the courts!" Sandusky resident Sharon Johnson said.

The yacht club -- which is looking to expand -- filed suit to gain ownership of the western half of Perry Street, north of Water Street. The land formerly housed Surf's Up, a wave action pool.

City officials declined to comment on the situation, but Kline reiterated his optimism about the Marina District.

"I think we'll find a way to get it done," he said.

In other business:

n Commissioners voted to proceed with the demolition of a house at 1502 Hayes Ave. City officials expressed excitement over eradicating the neglected property, which they said drags down property values and invites criminal activity to the neighborhood. The demolition will cost $28,000.