Official support erodes for Marina District

SANDUSKY The Marina District project may be dead in the water. Ex officio mayor Craig
jasonsinger
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

The Marina District project may be dead in the water.

Ex officio mayor Craig Stahl and city commissioner Dave Waddington said Thursday they will not support an extension for the project, the first such statements by any public officials.

Stahl's statement was particularly surprising because he has been one of the project's most avid supporters.

"No," Stahl wrote in a brief e-mail when asked about whether he would support an extension. "It is time for a new plan."

Stahl didn't return phone calls Thursday evening seeking more information. But his disillusionment may be a sign that even supporters have grown weary of the controversial and long-gestating project.

Earlier in the day, Waddington also said he would not support an extension for the Marina District. He cited the downtrodden economy, missed deadlines and waning public support as reasons to ax the endeavor.

"We've got to be realistic," Waddington said. "We've got a host of other things we need to be spending our time on.

"We gave it a good try. The commissioners and staff and everybody put (in) a ton of effort. There's just a little too much wind in our face right now."

Waddington said he called Stahl and city manager Matt Kline on Thursday afternoon to share his opinion. He said during his conversation with Stahl, Stahl didn't say whether he would support an extension. He didn't learn of Stahl's statement until contacted by the Register on Thursday evening.

Waddington also said Kline seemed to sympathize with him.

"He said he understood what I was saying," Waddington said.

The statements by Stahl and Waddington add two more hurdles to a project besieged by setbacks and skepticism in 2009. According to the development agreement, Eymann has until Dec. 31 to pre-sell 80 condos to secure financing and begin construction. But as of Aug. 25, he had sold only "12 or 13" units.

Then in September, residents and officials learned one of Eymann's former business partners filed a lawsuit against Eymann alleging embezzlement and fraud. The partner also accused Eymann of using company funds for personal projects, including the Marina District.

In the past few weeks, residents have wondered aloud at public meetings if Eymann was financially stable because the city waited five months to cash a $100,000 check from him. City officials have not said why they waited.

Waddington said he spoke out Thursday because he didn't want this city commission to bind the next commission with any type of extension.

This city commission has one more meeting -- this Monday -- before the Nov. 3 elections. Three of the current commissioners, including Stahl, are locked in a hotly-contested race with four challengers.

In fall 2007, a study by Donald T. Iannone & Associates estimated the Marina District would bring $250 million in profits to the city and 1,000 new jobs over an eight-year span.

In November 2007, 52 percent of city voters said to proceed with the project.

In October 2008, when the city and Eymann signed a development agreement, Stahl proclaimed it as "one of those truly historic days in the city's history."

"It is an evening to show we are all on the same team," Stahl said. "We are all for Sandusky."

Officials didn't know Thursday evening if Eymann would attend Monday's city commission meeting.

Earlier this year, Kline said Eymann would have to ask the city commission to amend the contract if he desired an extension.