UPDATED AFTER ORIGINAL POSTING: Ohio EPA response now included… — Two weeks ago, Northeast Ohio Golf wrote about how the Mayor of the City of Aurora was working with the Trust for Public Land to obtain financing to buy then close Aurora Golf Club for the purpose of ‘water conservation’.
The Mayor’s press release on the project seemed to infer that the $4.5 million dollars for the purchase was coming from grant sources being secured by the Trust for Public Land.
But thanks to the sharp eye of Aurora resident George Heisler, it is now clear that the Ohio EPA is the real source for the $4.5 million dollar ‘grant’ in the same way that the failed Fowler’s Mill ‘restoration project’ was to be financed back in 2010, and that the money is merely being passed through to the Trust for Public Land to provide political cover for the Aurora Mayor, the City Council and perhaps even the Ohio EPA.
Even more outrageous, the Mayor’s ordinance as written tries to force through the buy-and-close legislation as an ’emergency measure’ that only requires a single vote for immediate implementation if approved by six council members, thereby eliminating further public discussion on the process.
Mr. Heisler noted in the documents he provided to NEOHgolf.com that the ordinance pays a premium value of $20,000 per acre even though less than half of the entire property covered could ever be developed because of land shape. He also shows by map the existence of a high-pressure gas line that runs through the property, so any potential lots near that line would be devalued even further for development, perhaps even prevented from development by easement.
In essence, his conclusion is that the $4.5 million price tag being considered for the property is at least double the value any sensible developer would even consider, and perhaps even far more skewed than that.
Heisler also points out that the ordinance language itself should outrage Aurora residents, as he describes it as having a ‘railroading’ section — as in the legislation is being railroaded through without full public consideration. From the Aurora Ordinance 2012-060:
Section 7. This Ordinance is hereby declared to be an emergency measure necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety of this municipality. Wherefore, provided it receives an affirmative vote of six or more of the members elected to this Council, this Ordinance shall take effect and be in force immediately upon its passage by Council and approval of the Mayor; otherwise, it shall take effect and be in force after the earliest time provided by law.
The full content of the Ordinance can be found in Aurora Ordinance 2012-060.
The Aurora WRRSP Proposal that outlines the entire scope of the project claims that the money has already been set aside by the Ohio EPA because of the “significance of the resources to be acquired.”
UPDATE: Ohio EPA spokesman Mike Settles provided the following information after the article’s posting about the financing and the process:
The City of Aurora submitted a nomination form to be placed on the Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program (WRRSP) project priority list for possible funding. The city’s nomination form estimates costs for the proposed Aurora Branch Chagrin River Restoration at $4.75 million, including $3.9 million for land acquisition (portions of the Aurora Golf Club). The remainder of the money would go toward habitat restoration efforts and associated costs.
It’s our understanding that on Monday, May 14, the Aurora City Council may vote on a resolution authorizing the Mayor to enter into a sponsorship agreement. This will be the third council meeting where the WRRSP has been discussed. There was also a public hearing on April 23 to discuss the development of the management plan and get public input on the project.
An April 25 Aurora Advocate article referenced the activities from the April 23 council meeting/
With regard to Ohio EPA’s involvement, we’re just starting to work with Aurora on this process. Before any funding decisions are made later this year, we will need the city to submit a management plan, sponsorship agreement, draft environmental covenant, formal appraisal of property and other documents. We also would anticipate holding a public comment period if we get to the point of conducting a limited environmental review or assessment.
Ohio EPA Spokesman
So it appears that just as in the Fowler’s Mill boondoggle, a state-funded agency on a mission to spend set-aside money for watershed improvement — no matter how much benefit doing so will provide or how much it will cost — has paired with a local government point-person over an idea that shows little common sense.
And once again, the two sides are doing this for the stated purpose of improving the water quality of a river to which the golf course causes no harm, at an amount of money that will greatly enrich a private landholder using taxpayer funds, while closing a working golf course that is an asset to the residents of that city and to the golfers of the region.
So the question becomes: will enough Aurora residents (and Northeast Ohio residents, too) stand up at the city council meeting on May 14th, demand an accounting for this type of spending, and tell the Aurora City Council and the Ohio EPA to stop attacking the recreational amenities that are these golf courses?