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Anderson Twp. riverfront plan changes course

Posted at 9:17 AM, Sep 13, 2015

ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Anderson Township has been looking to develop more of its Ohio riverfront as a public amenity, moving toward recreational and commercial use in an area near Highway 52 that has been used mainly for light industry.

But a state grant program the township had hoped would pay for a public recreational marine facility did not materialize this year. So planners have announced they are shifting to Plan B, which is to develop a public-private partnership for nearly 6½ acres Anderson purchased in 2014.

The township is seeking proposals from private entities to develop a portion of the site on Kellogg Road near the intersection of Five Mile Road and U.S. 52.

Steve Sievers, township assistant administrator for operations, told WCPO, “our intent was originally and our intention remains to provide public access and public enjoyment of the riverfront area, specifically on that parcel. That was the reason we purchased that property.

“The direction we were originally going was to look for funding to build a boat-launch facility and everything that goes along with that, and what we’ve learned is that that funding wasn’t available for 2015. We believe it will (be available) for 2016, but that would push us out probably at least two to three years (even) if we were successful” in getting the Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant, he said.

Sievers said Anderson Township is open to all kinds of proposals, from retail to residential: “All options at this point would be considered.”

Anderson purchased the former Boatsmith Marine site in 2014 with funds it gained from selling five acres nearby to Cargill, which uses its property as a staging ground, moving cargo from the river to trucks, Sievers said. That five acres was situated between Cargill’s already existing facility and Hilltop Basic Resources, which also uses its property as a way-station for gravel and materials for concrete. Sievers said the five-acre parcel it sold to Cargill was not appropriate for recreational use.

The Boatsmith Marine site is surrounded by vacant property: northwest of it is a 47-acre property that’s for sale; to the east is undeveloped Ohio Department of Transportation land and a creek.

Upon purchasing Boatsmith Marine’s parcel, the township began doing the leg work for a proposal to win the Cooperative Boating Facility Grant from the state, working on a concept plan, soliciting public input, getting cost estimates. The deadline would have been in April.

Eric Heis, spokesman for ODNR, said the agency did not list the Cooperative Boating Facility grant for competitive submissions in 2015 because the funds were committed to a pair of ongoing projects in other parts of the state. He said the grant will be open to applicants in 2016, but at a lower funding level than in previous years, again because of ongoing projects.

It was not all tears at Anderson Center when planners learned the state was not offering the grant, however. Sievers stressed that the upside of Plan B is the township not being bound by Ohio Department of Natural Resources requirements for parking and other “limitations” the state program would entail.

Had state funding come through, Sievers said, “we might not have to pay for (construction of the facility) ... but the downside, we wouldn’t have as much control over the operation of it, the ongoing maintenance of it, those types of things,” including what he said was several acres of township-maintained parking – more than Anderson wanted, and more than would have allowed for private development. Similarly, state funding for the project would have taken from the township control over public access: when to close the facility, for example.

If control is what the township wants, it has acres and acres of it. As things stand, Anderson Township is both the owner of the Boatsmith Marine property and the regulatory agency. “That’s the benefit. While we make the zoning decision on it, we’re also the landowner,” Sievers said.

“Our priority is to get this site open to the public and accessible to the public. So we’re looking at ‘what is the best way to make that happen?’”