City pursues eminent domain of shooting range: (Ashtabula OH) Star Beacon, 8/11/06

By Margie Trax Page

Major steps are being taken by the city [of Geneva OH] in the eminent-domain proceedings to acquire the Ohio Rubber Co. Sportsman's Association's Gun Club, even as gun club members resist any land sale.

City Council has long had it's eye on ORCO's land, which adjoins a proposed community park along Romeo Road.

The proposed 100-acre community park cannot move forward without the purchase, or acquisition by eminent domain, of ORCO's 40-acre outdoor shooting range. Council has determined that the club's outdoor shooting range, in the middle of the property, would deter families from using the nearby park.

The proposed park would include a soccer field, football field, six baseball fields, a playground, swimming pool, community center, exercise trail, cross-country skiing, an obstacle course, bicycle track, walking track, track and field area, nature classroom, dog run, rollerblade park and an outdoor water park.

Last week, council officially expressed it's interest in the land with the passage of an ordinance that sets a price goal for the ORCO property at $2,000 per acre for 40-plus acres, including an indoor shooting range. Failing the outright sale of the land, the city will pursue eminent-domain proceedings, Councilman William Buskirk said.

"This just means that we are moving ahead and trying to negotiate with (ORCO). This step is needed because ORCO's representatives have refused to negotiate in the past," Buskirk said.

ORCO President Geoff Kotzar called the city's offer "a ridiculous low ball."

"Right now, land in rural areas is going for $5,000 an acre," Kotzar said. "There are 2.4 acres of land between Eagle and Swan streets with an asking price of over $100,000. How is it that our land that is only a one-half mile farther west is worth so much less? It boggles the mind," he said.

Kotzar said the indoor shooting range alone cost more than what council is offering for the land.

Buskirk said council is only trying to "make lemonade out of lemons" on a sweet land deal gone sour.

Geneva purchased the 100-acre property on Romeo Road originally to develop an industrial park, but it was deemed unsuitable for industrial use.

Kotzar said the public should question the actions of a government that has made so many planning mistakes.

"This reflects bad planning from the get-go," Kotzar said. "They have not done a traffic study. The land backs up to (Geneva Township) land that is used for hunting, and there is no zoning to regulate the hunting in the township," he said.

"It sounds illogical because it is illogical," Kotzar said.

(Ashtabula OH) Star Beacon: http://www.starbeacon.com