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03-25-04 Officials address boardwalk concerns

By Sean Rice

When the West Bank Road boardwalk is built, the city will provide regular mowing, trash cleanup and maintenance services, Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue told a group of property owners who would be directly affected by the proposed project.
   About 20 visitors attended a public information meeting held Wednesday night, where former Fanning/Howey Associates engineer Kent Bryan summarized the plans and assured West Bank property owners their views will be given consideration when finalizing details.
   LaRue also assured the lakefront property owners who have been maintaining a boat dock or fishing pier along West Bank Road they will be compensated in equal capacity, with another dock or other arrangement, when their piers are removed for construction.
   The group of property owners, who were invited by mail directly from the mayor, announced their chief concerns as the current lack of maintenance along the road and the possibility of losing their private docks and piers.
   “We paid significant sums for those docks,” said a man who has a house and dock on the south end of West Bank Road. “It’s part of what we paid for when we bought our house.”
   “It’s recorded on our deeds,” said another man.
   Property owner Donald Tomasek said former Mayor Paul Arnold promised the private docks would stay along West Bank Road, with the electric outlets, at no cost to owners.
   “If you were promised that from the previous administration, I will see that you’re accommodated. Because we want to work with you, we want to be good neighbors,” LaRue said.
   “Were there any other promises that you know of,” the mayor asked, fielding no further responses.
   The fishing piers and docks actually are owned by the state, with property owners renting the space from the state. Property owners now pay $90 a year, up from the $60 they paid for many years.
   State officials have said they want the city to be responsible for all the docks and dock rental, because the state doesn’t want to collect rent from individuals.
   City officials on Wednesday said construction on a boardwalk could begin by autumn, but would most likely be next year. The plan calls for a 12-foot concrete walkway that will span the mile between the lighthouse and West Bank State Park.
   Celina has access to $250,000 the state legislature budgeted in the 2002-2004 capital budget, which is earmarked only for a West Bank Road boardwalk, secured by state Rep. Keith Faber (R-Celina). A newly created tax increment financing (TIF) district created along the road could generate nearly $90,000 per year, or more, for 15 years, city officials estimate.
   The TIF arrangement redirects a portion of regular property taxes paid by landowners into a special account that can only be used to make improvements benefiting the TIF district. The portion of taxes diverted is those that result from an increase in tax liability. So when individual property values increase in the TIF district, the corresponding increase in payments make up the new account.
   Because the TIF was set up before the new Westlake Village development hit the property tax rolls, West Bank Road will benefit from the increase in property values. The site went from bare land to a 15-acre development with condominiums and rental cottages, an $8 million to $10 million investment.
   Bryan used a slide-show Wednesday to inform property owners how the plans have progressed in the years of development. He stressed that all aspects of the projects, except for the boardwalk structural design, are still open for discussion. The estimated cost is between $1.2 and $1.5 million.
   “This has been pretty well dictated to us how this is going to be done (the boardwalk construction), by DNR, because they view all this as a dam,” Bryan said of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources
   The boardwalk plans call for the existing concrete walkway on West Bank Road to stay, but nearly 25 feet of the lake will be filled in to make the new walkway. Just east of the current walkway are jagged rocks on the shoreline, which will be covered with a 12-foot wide strip of grass. Then the concrete boardwalk will make up the final 12 feet before the water’s edge.
   Bryan said an idea is being tossed around to install stone jetties to provide breakwater protection for boats dock along the boardwalk, from shifting ice and rough waves. He showed drawings of T-shaped rock jetties, similar to the jetty near the lighthouse.
   Art Wise, a West Bank Property owner, asked several times how the city visions the final product, and what developers are planning to do in the area. Bryan and LaRue said any residential or commercial development would be up to private individuals.
   “You keep talking of tourists coming. What are they going to do? They are not coming to fish for catfish off West Bank,” Wise asked.
   “I envision a very viable tourist destination ... an ice cream shop, a craft shop and places to stay, things like that,” LaRue said.


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