CONNEAUT — Wetland areas can be wild and wonderful, but they also can give development planners big fits.

Federal laws protect wetlands, so any building project involving ecological areas requires some very careful, and time-consuming, navigation through a handful of agencies.

The city of Conneaut is no stranger to wetlands and the obstacles they pose to construction projects. Progress on the Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store at Interstate 90 and Route 7 awaits word on a wetland mitigation plan prepared by the city.

Local leaders believe the I-90/ Route 7 interchange is poised for development and want to ensure pesky wetlands don’t interfere with plans for success. As a result, the city is sponsoring a wetlands school for I-90-area landowners, Friday morning at City Hall. Invitations were sent to more than 50 landowners, the majority living in Conneaut, said City Manager Douglas Lewis.

Conneaut’s wetlands consultant and a representative of Smolen Engineering will attend the session to tell landowners how they can prepare their property for wetlands mitigation — and future commercial growth.

“We’ll get them updated and show them how they can move forward,” Lewis said.

The meeting was prompted in big part by the regulatory hoops that confronted the city’s efforts to bring Love’s to town. The fuel-station project has been in the hopper the better part of three years, and a big part of the delay was attributed to wetlands mitigation.

The city has presented a plan to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which would create a wetlands bank on land not suitable for development, within the East Conneaut Industrial Park. Wetlands damaged by projects in other parts of town could be re-created within the bank, officials said.

City officials have asked the Ashtabula County Soil and Water Conservation District to hold a conservation easement regarding the wetlands bank. In effect, the city is asking the district to serve as a third party to keep watch over the bank, said Nathan Paskey, Conservation District manager. The district board needs to research the city’s request, Paskey said.

“(The board) is still evaluating,” he said. “They haven’t said yes or no.”

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