At the Oct. 9 meeting of Port Clinton City Council, the Council approved an ordinance, 4-3, regarding the hiring of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell, a California consulting firm, to help find a developer for Water Works Park. Mayor Vince Leone vetoed the ordinance, leaving the question of what is the next step for Waterworks Park.
In order to move forward, Mayor Leone has a “concrete plan for us to start by listening to one another “ and building a consensus on what is best for Port Clinton and its waterfront.
“Our community can be excellent at pulling together,” said Leone.
According to Leone, there have been many plans and concepts for the waterfront over the years. Leone thinks that council needs to refocus on the issues of infrastructure and the branding and improving of downtown Port Clinton that are necessary to support any development at Waterworks Park.
“We already have people coming here (to Port Clinton). It is up to us to set the stage, to capitalize on the downtown.” He noted that discussions on what to do about the waterfront have been going on for decades and that “no one in the government has the perfect solution, no magic pill.”
“It has never been clear what should be on the waterfront. A developer needs to be a company that is able to spend time in the community,” said Leone. He said the veto was about the consulting company, JMB&M, working via teleconferencing without coming to Port Clinton, and about the other costs that would be incurred as the process with JMB&M went forward.
Leone cited recent improvements with parks, streets and infrastructure in Port Clinton, and better signage that has increased usage of the transient docks this year. He suggested that one way to go could be the improvement of the waterfront green space, a better marina and perhaps an amphitheater.
Councilwoman Kathy Mehl was surprised by Mayor Leone’s veto, and says that “We need to find out what the mayor wants to do at this point. There seems to be confusion and needs to be clarity.”
Councilman Randy Lipstraw fully supports Mayor Leone’s veto, because using JMB&M is primarily focused on developing hotels and hotel-based resorts, and because he fears that the price tag with JMB&M could go beyond the $25,000. Lipstraw emphasized that he is fully supportive of developing Waterworks Park, but that he does not support “pigeon-holing our options into hotels or hotel-type resorts.” Lipstraw favors looking at more mixed-use options, and focusing on “sustainability and longevity” of any waterfront development.
Councilman Mike Snider also said he was surprised by the mayor’s veto. He speculates that the legislation might be reintroduced at Council. Snider believes that the plan to use JMB&M is the right next step in the evolution of Waterworks Park.
Snider pointed out that the Waterworks Park area has had many faces over the years, from the time when a river ran through it, to the relocation of the highway and the adding of landfill, to the addition of the baseball field, the transient docks and the improvements in utilities with the Walleye Festival.
Snider says that attempts to work out a plan for Waterworks Park internally have not been successful, and that JMB&M has the experience and track record and access to a pool of developers that has worked well with clients in the past. He does not agree that, in this electronic age, a company needs to be local or on site to make recommendations or contacts.
Snider also notes that there is disagreement on Council as to what the public vote five years ago on Waterworks Park actually meant. Some on Council see the vote as a mandate to actively pursue development of the Waterworks Park area and others see it as simply a vote on rezoning.
“I don’t view this as a Republican/Democrat issue, but as a Port Clinton survival issue,” said Snider. “Wonderful things have been happening in Port Clinton with the Listening Room, the 1812 restaurant, the Wednesday jazz nights at Slater’s Pub. The next generation of entrepreneurs needs a catalyst, and that catalyst can be Waterworks Park.”
Laura Schlachter of Main Street Port Clinton and the Port Clinton Chamber of Commerce is “saddened that we aren’t all coming together on this issue.” Main Street Port Clinton’s desire is “to work closely with City Council and City Administration on the redevelopment of our historic downtown. Main Street Port Clinton will support the City’s decision regarding development of our downtown and are excited to play a role in the revitalization of our community.”
According to Councilwoman Deb Benko, the next step for Waterworks Park is for Port Clinton residents to contact their council representatives with comments and questions. A list of council members, email addresses and phone numbers is on the website at www.portclinton.com. The phone number at City Hall is 419-734-5522.
The next Port Clinton City Council meeting is Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m., at Port Clinton City Hall, 1868 Perry Street.