AURORA -- A Joint Economic Development District agreement between Aurora and Bainbridge Township appears to be closer to reality, but one issue with the management of Cedar Fair LP still must be resolved.

Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin told City Council at its June 26 that recent talks with Bainbridge were positive and a draft of the JEDD could be on the horizon once an issue with tree cutting on the Bainbridge side of the former Geauga Lake property is resolved.

Bainbridge Trustees Chairwoman Kristina O'Brien said her board found out the tree cutting was taking place in an area where deed restrictions prohibit that activity, and until an investigation into the matter is completed, work on the JEDD draft is on hold.

"We're just trying to protect our residents," O'Brien said. "We want to get down to the bottom of this tree cutting issue with Cedar Fair before moving forward."

A JEDD is an arrangement in Ohio where a municipality and township agree to work together to develop township land. The municipality gets a portion of the taxes levied in the JEDD without having to annex it. The township continues to collect property taxes, and gets a portion of the income tax collected.

O'Brien said a Cedar Fair representative told trustees the tree cutting was unauthorized and has since ceased. She added trustees are awaiting further word on the matter from Cedar Fair.

Meanwhile, O'Brien noted the trustees recently had a sitdown meeting with Cedar Fair and Hanna Commercial, the land sales representative for the roughly 650-acre property. The latter reported it has some potential buyers.

About the JEDD talks, O'Brien said both communities parties -- Bainbridge and Aurora -- need to work in unison to bring about redevelopment of the land for the benefit of both.

"There is no specific time frame for getting the JEDD draft written," she said. "We hope to get the tree cutting issue resolved and go from there. Our discussion with Aurora officials were fruitful."

O'Brien said the JEDD "is a give and take" type of thing. "Both communities want what's best for their residents," she noted. "The township and Aurora won't get everything they want, but that's what successful negotiating is all about."

Womer Benjamin said the delay in getting the JEDD drafted is not because of anything the trustees have done; it's a matter of getting the tree cutting issue resolved with Cedar Fair.

"I think both sides have negotiated the JEDD in good faith," City Law Director Dean DePiero told Council at its June 26 session. "We're worked hard with Bainbridge's legal consultant so we can bring smart redevelopment to the property."

He said it's a bit disappointing that the tree cutting issue has put the JEDD drafting process on hold, but hopefully the issue will be settled and the process can continue.

Councilman John Kudley called the negotiations "sensitive," and pointed out he believes the city has received some bad press in Bainbridge, but added Aurora "wants to move on with this [JEDD]."

Meanwhile, according to Bainbridge Zoning Inspector Karen Endres a lot split has been approved by the trustees for land where a Meijer Superstore has been proposed, but Meijer or Cedar Fair have not yet executed the split.

Meijer has proposed building the large store on about 40 acres where the old Geauga Lake Park main parking lot was located.


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