Vital questions about the Marina District project remain unanswered, including how much it will cost the taxpayers, how it will impact our schools, and how the Surf?s Up property will be replaced.
Those of us who have reservations about the project are by no means against progress or development for Sandusky. We welcome responsible investors who are willing to build on readily available commercial property (such as on First Street), and who do not insist on high-rise construction right on the bay shore.
But we do have grave concerns about a project that promises to cost us a ton of money, converts historic public space into a private for-profit domain, and demands that working and low income families subsidize upper-income condo buyers.
We do not have reliable estimates from city officials about the total costs to the taxpayers for the Marina District. We'll just have to rely on their previous statements.
According to the May 30 Register, City Manager Matt Kline estimated the cost to the city for public improvements would be $6 million to $9 million and Tax Increment Financing would not cover the cost. "I don't see how that is going to be financially feasible,'" he was quoted as saying. Neither do we.
An infrastructure bill that size works out to between $2,000-$3,000 per family. This does not include the cost of a new city hall (to be built somewhere), or the cost of replacing Surf's Up (which the city is legally required to do). City officials owe us a full explanation of all these costs.
As it stands now, the only funds clearly available to build a new city hall will be the $2.5 million to be paid by the developer for the current city hall, its parking lot, the tennis courts and skateboard park. This is nowhere near enough to pay for a new city hall, not to mention the additional parking spaces that it will require.
City commissioners should not vote on this project before all of these questions have been answered. If this project fails, or exceeds its current foggy cost estimates, every Sandusky City Commissioner, as well as city officials, will be held accountable for not being forthcoming when they had the chance.
At the very least, commissioners should not approve the Marina District before the Ohio Department of Natural Resources holds hearings which are now apparently in the planning stages. The city should also conduct hearings. A few informal Saturday morning meetings over coffee are not sufficient to enable the taxpayers of Sandusky to understand and evaluate a project of this importance.
Finally, since the present proposal is quite different from the one voted on by the citizens in 2007, a second vote by the public would be in order.
Arnold Oliver, treasurer
Citizens for Responsive Government