City leaders hope to rezone former Geauga Lake land in Aurora

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Aurora -- City leaders hope to rezone the land formerly occupied by Geauga Lake Park so it is most beneficial for future use, but a zoning change recommendation will not go on the November 2013 ballot.

"If we want to change it to a mixed use district, that will have to go in front of the voters," Law Director Alan Shorr said. "This is going to take a while. If we can get it on the ballot next year, I'd be happy. It won't be on this fall's ballot."

City Council must vote to put the zoning issue on the ballot. Aurora's zoning for that property currently is about 90 percent industrial.

"We don't know who will own it or develop it, but industrial is not exactly the best use for that property," Shorr said.

About 500 of the 700 acres at the former Geauga Lake site are for sale, with about 300 acres in Aurora and another 200 acres in Bainbridge Township.

About 200 acres at Cedar Fair Entertainment Co.'s Wildwater Kingdom water park in Aurora will not be sold, Mayor James Fisher said, since the water park will remain in operation.

Geauga Lake closed as an amusement park after the 2007 season.

Marcus & Millichap real estate investment services is representing landowner Cedar Fair Entertainment Co., according to Fisher.

Shorr said city officials would like to develop "complementary zoning, something that would allow somebody to develop the entire property, regardless of the municipal boundary lines, in a fashion that is beneficial to both sides."

Shorr said the city administration will look at the issue and get some professionals to look at what zoning would work best.

The zoning process has nothing to do with the proposed JEDD agreement between Aurora and Bainbridge Township, Shorr said.

"Depending on how the property is developed, though, it may make sense to include it in the Aurora-Bainbridge JEDD," he explained. "But we're not there yet."

A long-awaited joint economic development district encompassing the Marketplace at Four Corners shopping center, which would bring income tax revenue to Aurora and Bainbridge, is not yet a reality

The JEDD would involve Aurora, Bainbridge Township and the developer of the Marketplace, a shopping center on the west side of Route 43 in Bainbridge Township.

Shorr said the agreement to create a JEDD was carried out by Aurora, Bainbridge Township and the McGill group, headed by Matthew McGill, property manager for the Marketplace shopping center.

"It laid out the basic terms that would be incorporated into a JEDD agreement that would be entered into at a later date," Shorr said. "Everybody agreed to agree."

Shorr said the actual JEDD agreement has not been formally prepared. "Aurora and Bainbridge Township are waiting for the McGill group to receive approval from the existing [tenants]," Shorr said. "When that is done, the agreement will go forward."

"We have to get signoffs from a majority of the tenants, which we are still working on," McGill said.

JEDD agreements are beneficial to townships because they allow them to share in income tax revenue they are otherwise not able to collect because, under state law, townships do not have the authority to collect income taxes.

However, when a township aligns with a municipality to form a JEDD, the two share tax revenues from the businesses in the township, meaning both entities gain additional revenue.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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