Port Clinton Mayor Vince Leone told those attending a meeting of the Friends of Port Clinton last Thursday that, should the ballot initiative pass in November, it would also shut down a number of community events, such as the Walleye Festival and Arts in the Park.
After its formation last fall, Friends of Port Clinton held its first community action meeting of the year on Thursday, August 14, at the Commodore Perry Inn.
“We heard a need in the community to support the City’s decision to move forward with development,” said co-creator and local business owner Roseann Hickman. “We have been attending functions to see what’s happening in the community and we feel there is a lot of misinformation associated with the ballot initiative.”
The purpose of the meeting, Hickman said, was to formulate a plan to educate the community.
At the meeting, Port Clinton Mayor Vince Leone read the ballot initiative as it stands right now.
An ordinance requiring an affirmative vote of the city electorate at a general election to sell, lease or otherwise transfer ownership of city park lands.
Whereas, City parks are valuable to all City residents regardless of their station in life, and;
Whereas, City parks indicate to visitors that the community highly values the wellbeing of its residents, and;
Whereas, Ownership and control of City parks are too important for the electors to be denied the opportunity to vote on such matters.
Now, therefore, be it ordained by the Electors of the City of Port Clinton, Ohio, acting herein by initiative petition:
Section 1: That the City shall not sell, lease or otherwise transfer ownership of, or any interest therein, without the approval by a majority vote of the electors of the City voting on the question at a general election, any of the following: (1) a City park or any part thereof, (2) land in the City acquired for park purposes or any part thereof, (3) land in the City previously designed by the City as a park (whether or not currently designated or used as a park) or any part thereof.
Section 2: That this ordinance shall take effect and be in force from and after the earliest date allowed by law.
“When “any part thereof” is stated, that could mean pavilion and gazebo rentals would have to go to the general election to be voted on which is only once a year in November,” said Mayor Leone. “The Walleye Festival, Arts in the Park, the July 4th activities… there are no exchange of funds, but it constitutes a lease because the space is reserved on park land by the City.”
“If that is the meaning of this ordinance, if it passes, we would have a year of inactivity in our City,” said Mayor Leone. “I am not an attorney, but this brings up a great argument. Any challenge of the interpretation of this law will have to go before a judge and they will decide how to interpret it.”
“This City Council works well together and they are 100% for Port Clinton all the way. They have no personal agenda. If this ordinance passes, it takes the power away from elected officials that were chosen by the people,” said Mayor Leone. “We cannot take the rights away from the City Council. This council has gotten an unbelievable amount of grants for this community.”
The Friends of Port Clinton group pointed out that CORD (Citizens Organized for Responsible Development) is a small group of people with what was described as a self-serving agenda. It was also pointed out at the meeting that during a recent council meeting, Councilman Mike Snider asked CORD members that should this initiative fail, will it stop them from continuing their fight against development of Waterworks Park and members of CORD responded by saying it would not.
“When you say that you’re representing the people, when the people speak and vote it down, I asked will you stop. They said no. Clearly they do not want to represent the people, they have their own personal agendas,” said Councilman Snider.
“If Mike Rose leaves, we will never get another developer in Port Clinton,” said Hickman. “There is buzz here now in our community. You can see it in the growth already starting in the downtown. It’s a ripple effect.”
Ottawa County Auditor Larry Hartlaub was also in attendance and he was asked to briefly speak on the importance of condo ownership in our community. “Property tax delinquency on condo owners is very low. They have a higher income, they pay more taxes, they pay into our taxes and the residents benefit from that,” said Hartlaub. “It’s just a good thing for our city. Other communities around us that have a higher percentage of condos and their budgets reflect that.”
“The condos can be used for betterment to happen,” said Councilman Snider.
“Right now, CORD is the squeaky wheel and after today, this group needs to be the squeaky wheel the community hears,” said former Councilman Jim Hansen.
Police Chief Rob Hickman said, “We need to remember this is about the City as a whole, not just Waterworks Park.”
The next Friends of Port Clinton meeting will be held Thursday, August 28, the night of the Art Walk, in the back of 1812 Food & Spirits at 7:30 p.m. Right now there is a call for volunteers to go door to door to educate voters about the ordinance. A fact sheet will be distributed. Any concerned citizens are asked to join the cause.