Bainbridge -- Despite what Bainbridge Township Trustee Jeff Markley called a "roadblock" to completing a joint economic development agreement with Aurora, that path forward still "makes the most sense," he said.
Describing for a gathering of about 10 residents Feb. 1 an impasse in negotiations with Aurora officials, the Bainbridge trustees outlined the history of planning since the 2007 closing of Geauga Lake and posed questions for Bainbridge residents to consider:
Would they like to see trustees pursue the most economically advantageous deal for the township, with the understanding that doing so could dissuade some developers from buying the property, or would they prefer to negotiate a JEDD agreement aimed at attracting a developer in the shorter term, potentially giving up a larger portion of the revenue from it?
Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin has said she does not wish to part with income tax revenue from the Aurora side of the Cedar Fair owned land. However, she did say she's hopeful a deal can be struck. She said Bainbridge needs water and sewer access to develop its portion of the property.
"Aurora is certainly willing to continue discussions with Bainbridge regarding a JEDD," she stated in an email to the Aurora "Their perspective makes total sense," she said. "They already collect 100 percent of the income tax on the property. Why are they going to give that away?"
Bainbridge Trustee Lorrie Benza said the JEDD could be negotiated with Solon or South Russell Village if the township doesn't work with Aurora.
If Bainbridge seeks a JEDD somewhere other than Aurora, Markley said water and sewer access would be much trickier to secure.
Adding time pressure to the planning process is last fall's closure of Wildwater Kingdom and Cedar Fair's master plan, which is still pending approval from Aurora and Bainbridge. The master plan is intended to help market the property to prospective buyers.
Womer Benjamin and Markley both said they are generally is in favor of the unofficial master plan for the Cedar Fair property.
"The master plan is an unofficial plan which reflects the development concepts Aurora and Bainbridge have envisioned," said Womer Benjamin. "It will be used by Cedar Fair to market the property. I believe it is a good start and reasonably encompasses Aurora's design concepts contained in our code."
Meijer, a big box store, is interested in buying and building on what used to be Geauga Lake Park's main parking lot on the north end of the property off Route 43.
The store was exempted from a Bainbridge moratorium on rezoning applications under two conditions: it must design features aimed at stirring nostalgia for Geauga Lake, and it must sign on to a JEDD agreement, according to Benza.
According to Markley, Meijer is hoping to open in 2019, which means time is tight to establish a JEDD. "We as a board [of trustees] have to look at all our options," he said.
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