The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 19, 2012

Coast management plan seeks input from area

By CARL E. FEATHER - cfeather@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — More public input, especially from Conneaut and North Kingsville, is needed before the county’s Coastal Management Plan can be approved.

A stakeholders’ meeting for the purpose of reviewing and commenting on the draft plan was held in Jefferson on Monday afternoon. Poggenmeyer Design Group representatives served as facilitators of the meeting, the fourth held since last summer to gather input.

A $25,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, with a local match, is paying for the project. Originally assigned to the county’s planning department, the project was inherited by the Department of Planning and Community Services when commissioners merged the planning department. Janice Switzer, program manager for combined departments, said she hopes to have the plan ready for approval by January.

Monday’s meeting provided a forum for stakeholders to raise additional issues, comment on the plan and tweak the language. Randy Mielnik, a facilitator, said nothing controversial has emerged from the discussions, but there does seem to be a theme of improved public access to the lakefront. Mielnik said the comments suggest that a better job needs to be done with the access areas that already exist, except at Geneva-on-the-Lake, where new access points and beaches need to be created.

The plan’s major divisions include coastal places, transportation/mobility, related planning efforts, issues and recommendations.

The report recognizes key tourism and industrial drivers on the public sections of the lakefront, including the Port Conneaut project, Harbor Historical District and Geneva-on-the-Lake Strip.

Switzer said an online survey was offered to help residents of coastal communities provide input to the process. The survey is online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/SHCC3TS. The survey received only one response from North Kingsville and five from Conneaut. Most came from Geneva-on-the-Lake, 57, and Ashtabula, 29.

She said the survey guides the department’s decisions regarding development projects, such as bike trails or parks.  “How should the coastline be developed? If you have an opinion, we’d love to hear from you,” Switzer said.

The survey closes Dec. 7.

Ashtabula County needs a coastal management plan so it can apply for grants related to needs identified by the plan, Switzer said. While only public lands can be used for those grant dollars, the plan does take into consideration the impact of private investment, such as noting the need for more commercial development to fill in empty spaces along The Strip or constraining condo development in certain areas.

The draft plan is online at ashtabulacounty.us. Follow the offices link to planning, then take the Ashtabula County SharePoint link to planning documents and the coastal management draft.