'Progress being made' on developing former Geauga Lake land; mayor seeks to extend moratorium

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Aurora -- It's been 2 1/2 months since a mixed-use rezoning issue was OK'd by voters for the former Geauga Lake and surrounding land, and Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin reports progress.

"Progress is being made on all fronts, even though it is not visible to residents," she said. "The sale and development of the Geauga Lake property is a complex puzzle with many moving pieces, and will take time to be managed successfully."

Womer Benjamin envisions residential, cultural, business, recreational and commercial uses blended together. She said the property continues to be marketed by owner Cedar Fair.

"We understand a variety of interested parties has approached Cedar Fair, but we don't know specifics," she said. "My staff and I have had meetings with Bainbridge Township officials, and we're drafting regulations for the part of the property in Aurora.

"We're exploring options for an agreement, such as a joint economic development district, with Bainbridge."

Prior to Election Day, Womer Benjamin worked with Council to create a 120-day moratorium on development in the new district, which went into effect May 7.

"The moratorium is to delay development while we draft regulations for as contemplated by the zoning change," she said. "This is so that development will not occur until the new regulations are in place."

The mayor is asking Council for a 120-day extension to the current moratorium, which expires in early September.

"This is so the city has time to finish the regulations and follow the process for their approval through the planning commission and Council," she said. "We're continuing discussions with Bainbridge officials."

Womer Benjamin said the city is committed to "laying a foundation for development of the property that will enhance Aurora and for which the city will have oversight and input."

"We're doing our part by carefully preparing regulations on design criteria, setbacks, appropriate structures, etc.," she said. "We also are negotiating with Bainbridge to try to work out an agreement regarding uniform design standards, service responsibilities and possible revenue sharing.

"Such negotiations take time. Meanwhile, those potential buyers will have their own processes and timelines for due diligence as they consider purchasing some or all of the land."

Womer Benjamin said with so much acreage involved -- more than 300 Cedar Fair acres on the Aurora side -- "due diligence will take time."

"Development of the Geauga Lake area remains a promising opportunity for Aurora and the region, one we're working hard to use well," she said, "and I am very grateful that the residents supported the rezoning to mixed-use."

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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