Aurora -- One of the key issues on the horizon for Aurora residents is the proposed rezoning of the former Geauga Lake amusement park property, Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said in her first State of the City address Feb. 13.
"After rezoning to a mixed-use development district, more development opportunities will open up for the city," said Womer Benjamin, speaking to about 110 people at the Bertram Inn.
The rezoning, which will appear on the May 6 primary election ballot, would create a mixed-use district for 548 acres in the northern part of the city and Bainbridge Township.
About 350 acres is zoned industrial, which is not the best use of the land, she has said. Instead, by making it a mixed-use district, the zoning would combine residential, office, commercial and entertainment all in one.
Womer Benjamin, giving what she called "a snapshot" of the early part of her first year as mayor, said she has begun meeting with business leaders and will continue to do so "to keep a pulse on the business needs of the city."
The mayor touched on other topics in the city's near future. They include:
• Upgrades will be made at Sunny Lake Park, including expanding restrooms in the boathouse and parking near the boathouse (and making it safer), and putting in a concession stand at the ballfields.
• WALKING paths will be used more at Spring Hill Farms, and security will be established so people can be invited onto the property.
• Restoration will be started at the former Aurora Golf Club property.
• A new planning-zoning-building director will be found to replace Rich Wehrenberg, who is no longer employed by the city. His place is being taken on an interim basis by Denise Januska.
• A new police chief will be selected to succeed Seth Riewaldt, who is retiring this summer. "It will be no light task to find a replacement," she said.
Womer Benjamin, who succeeded Mayor James Fisher after he did not run for election in November, praised Fisher, his predecessor Lynn McGill and Aurora school leaders for their contributions to the city.
"All of Aurora benefits from strong schools, and I will support the schools in every way I can," she said.
Superintendent Russ Bennett, who spoke prior to Womer Benjamin, praised the leadership of Board of Education members. "They certainly have their hearts in the right place," he said.
Bennett said Aurora schools are in the top 2 percent of districts in the state. "Certainly, our students are performing [well]," he said.
Bennett said Aurora schools "are considered one of the benchmark districts in terms of safety," and he said that is aided by the district's two school resource officers.
"This relationship between the city and the schools is what makes our city great," he said. "You should feel pride in the schools."
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