Marina District in doubt?

SANDUSKY The Sandusky Bay Pavilion will live to see another summer as a community gathering spot, th
jasonsinger
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

The Sandusky Bay Pavilion will live to see another summer as a community gathering spot, the city's recreation board decided Wednesday, citing doubts the developer of the Marina District can sell enough condo units to force a move next year.

The contract between the city and developer John Eymann requires 80 units to be pre-sold this year for the deal to go forward under the current terms.

Scott Schell, the city's economic development specialist, told the recreation board Eymann had secured "nine or 10" pre-sale deposits.

Joe Sehlmeyer, recreation board president, shook his head in response and suggested tabling the discussion of the replacement park until next year.

The rest of the board unanimously agreed.

"If he can't sell the units, there's no point in dinking around with all this," Sehlmeyer said.

After the meeting, Eymann and Realtor Lou Hibbard both expressed strong confidence in the project.

Hibbard, who was hired by Eymann in May to sell the Marina District condos, guaranteed the project would succeed. She cited her resume as evidence.

In Sandusky alone, Hibbard sold the condos at Chesapeake Lofts and Point Retreat -- a thriving development onCedar Point Drive built in the early 1990s, she said.

"I guarantee this is going to happen," Hibbard said in a phone interview. "I absolutely believe in this project. I worked on Point Retreat and they said that wasn't going to happen, but we made it happen. I worked on the Chesapeake and they said that wasn't going to happen, but we made it happen. This will happen. I'm sure of it."

The board asked city commissioner Dave Waddington -- the commission's liaison to the board -- to recommend to the rest of the commission Monday night that the city open Surf's Up for summer 2010.

This year, the city told some events -- like the Big Splash -- they couldn't use Surf's Up because of preparations for the Marina District. Subsequently, the Big Splash moved to Perkins Township.

Residents who attended the meeting, including Save Our Shoreline Parks members, commended the board for the recommendation to open Surf's Up, which is a former wave-action pool property in Battery Park.

"I think that'll go a long way toward bringing good will to the community," said Mark Norman, a longtime opponent of the Marina District.

Prior to tabling the discussion, Schell and city manager Matt Kline presented possible replacement properties for Surf's Up.

If the Marina District project goes through, the city would lose 2.2-2.6 acres of the property, which must be replaced with a new park, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Previously, the city had looked at six potential sites as replacement parks, but narrowed it down to two Wednesday afternoon.

The JD Byrider property, at 2000 Cleveland Road across from Castaway Bay, has the fewest road blocks to get approval from ODNR and the National Parks Service, officials said. It appeared to be the likely choice.

But there's a small possibility the city could also use the Tricor Property, just west of Chesapeake Lofts.

The Tricor Porperty has two major roadblocks though: First, the city already owns it, and the city is supposed to purchase new public property with the funds from the sale of the Surf's Up property.

Secondly, the Tricor Property is submerged land, and technically the state owns it. So Schell said the National Parks Service has expressed reservations about using that site.

"The one that's going to get a rupper stamp from ODNR and the National Parks Service is JD Byrider," Kline said.

The Byrider property is 18 acres with 13 acres of wetlands. Schell said because of its size, price and versatility, it's ideal. The land costs $1.5 million, and the city would get about $1 million from the sale of the much smaller Surf's Up property.

Among other things, Schell said the Byrider property could be used as another node on the Sandusky Bay Pathway and East Sandusky Bay Water Trail. It would also be perfect for canoeing and kayaking, officials said, and the building from the old JB Byrider auto repair company would be a good place to rent canoes, kayas and other equipment.

But during the discussion, Kline pointed out Eymann could also ask for a deadline extension for the Marina District and the city commission could grant it.

Sehlmeyer said the board wouldn't recommend an extension though, and officials and board members noted with possibly three new city commissioners in 2010, no one can predict how the commission will feel about the Marina District.

For his part, Eymann still vehemently defended the project Wednesday evening, although he confirmed Schell's numbers were accurate.

"There are a bunch of (sales) pending, the momentum of the project is kind of swinging, and I think in two or three weeks we'll have a very different picture of the project," said Eymann, who got an update from Hibbard Tuesday. "I'm surprised and pleased with the progress Lou's making. I think the fact that we're making progress in this economy is progress in itself."