TWINSBURG — The city is seeking a Clean Ohio Fund grant to assist with the possible $250,000 purchase of 13.8 acres for its planned trail system.
At a special meeting Jan. 29, City Council voted 5-1 to submit an application to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for a grant to help fund the purchase of land north of Cannon Road and between Tinkers Creek and the railroad tracks.
The action came after Council adopted the First Mile, Last Mile Community Connections Plan, which could cost the city about $2 million if fully implemented, at its Jan. 22 session.
The resolution to apply for the grant was adopted as an emergency because the deadline for applying for the grant was Feb. 1. Council member Brian Steele voted "no," while Council member Greg Bellan was absent.
Steele said he was "conflicted" on the matter, but ultimately decided the city needs to curb its spending right now.
"We’re looking at our general fund balance possibly dropping from the start of this year to the start of next, and that concerns me," Steele said. "We need to draw the line and stop spending, and use the cash we have for necessary services."
The city will go ahead with the purchase only if grant funds are awarded, according to city officials. Law Director David Maistros said the current owner of the land has agreed to sell it to the city for $250,000. The grant would fund 75 percent of the purchase, with the city responsible for about $62,500.
Mayor Ted Yates said if the city gets the grant, the funds wouldn’t be forthcoming until 2020, and the city wouldn’t have to commit to its share until the end of this year.
"We’ve looked at acquiring land in that area for our trail system for a long time. In fact, it is in our master plan and the Connecting Communities plan," Yates said. "This piece of property would help tremendously in connecting the east side of town with downtown.
"I understand the fiscal issues some may have, but I believe this would be a good spend of public funds that could enhance the quality of life in Twinsburg."
Council member Bill Furey said the city owns plenty of parkland and he would rather not buy more, but "I understand the value to downtown redevelopment of having access to this trailhead."
Saying the overall trail plan, if fully implemented, could cost $2 million, Furey said the city needs to come up with money for the enhancements, and proposed the city start by selling land it owns at Route 91 and Glenwood Drive.
He suggested the city try again to have that parcel rezoned from PUD to R-5 residential so it can be better marketed. Past attempts at doing that have failed because Furey said officials didn’t do a good job educating the public why rezoning is beneficial.
"There also are other assets we could use to generate funds for trail projects, and we need to focus on them, too," he said.
THE CONNECTION PLAN
Meanwhile, the 93-page trail system plan was developed by the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, the city and Summit County, and was recommended to Council by the planning commission Jan. 7.
Yates said previously there is no timetable for moving ahead with the recommendations, and anything that is done depends largely on how much money is available to implement connectivity projects.
"This project is crucial to the downtown redevelopment process," Yates has said. "It would help to make downtown a destination."
The city has been attempting to fill gaps between existing pedestrian and bicycling paths since 2016, when it was awarded an AMATS Connecting Communities grant.
AMATS funding for the study was $23,000, with the city chipping in $10,000. Consultants from City Architecture and WSP USA worked on the project for more than two years.
AMATS developed the Connecting Communities initiative in 2010 to promote transit, bicycle and pedestrian uses and help create vibrant, healthy communities in the region.
The project would create a multi-tiered system, making Twinsburg Township Square a more connected destination, linking civic amenities, schools, commercial assets, parks and neighborhoods, and decreasing dependence on vehicular circulation.
When the planning panel recommended the plan to Council, it favored adding trailheads at the community gardens and Baldwin Park, both of which would be on city land near major thoroughfares.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org