The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 30, 2013

Lakefront housing plan gets Conneaut City Council’s OK

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — A new way of approaching a controversial lakefront housing proposal was endorsed by Conneaut City Council at Monday night’s regular meeting.

Members embraced a planned unit development concept that could ultimately put dozens of new houses on the old Conneaut Shores Golf Course at Lake and Whitney roads. Council’s support authorizes BuildWorks of Conneaut and landowner James Farmakis to prepare detailed blueprints and drawings for study by the city’s Planning Commission. If the commission finds no glitches, construction can start.

At issue is a four-phase project that could see as many as 126 new houses take shape on the golf course over the next several years. Past attempts to build houses on the land were thwarted by a zoning change tied to the proposal that alarmed neighbors and some city officials. The PUD version requires no rezoning and has been embraced by neighbors.

Elsewhere, council approved an amended, three-year contract with members of Local 651 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Council passed legislation regarding the pact on Jan. 14, but because of a misunderstanding council acted before the contract was ratified by the union. Some changes were made after the vote, requiring to the proposal to be amended.

In the final version, firefighters accepted: A wage freeze for 2013 and wage reopeners in 2014 and 2015; reduction in sick time payout from 1,200 hours to 900 hours for new hires; reduction in call-out time from three to two hours; increase in insurance co-pay in 2014 and 2015. The city will add the stipend paid for emergency medical technician certification into the hourly wage.

Firefighters have said they accepted the concessions because they were mindful of the city’s poor financial situation and also wanted to preserve jobs. City officials, meanwhile, have praise the local for their understanding. The firefighters’ contract is the first of four to be settled; talks are under way with the city’s police officers, dispatchers and service department workers.

In other business, council:

• Approved a handful of routine financing legislation for a number of capital improvement projects set to start this year, including upgrades to the Chestnut Street aerial sewer line and sewage treatment plant equipment

• Agree to pay $700 in back taxes on a fire-damaged house at 416 Bank St. The payment will allow Habitat for Humanity, the neighboring landowner, to acquire the house, demolish it and then transfer the property back to the city. In a related move, council was told demolition of condemned houses via the new Move Ohio Forward program could start in April or May.

• Learned an grant application agreement between Conneaut Township Park and the city of Conneaut that could create a gravel parking lot at long-closed Farnham Park off Center Road is in the hands of the park commissioners. The lot is designed to enhance public access to Conneaut Creek. The park is the responsibility of Township Park officials, but — per the agreement — the city would maintain the lot, patrol the property and pick up trash.