Geneva still wants gun club land: Ashtabula OH Star Beacon, 7/27/07

By Margie Trax Page

Geneva [OH] City Council is plowing ahead with eminent domain proceedings for the Ohio Rubber Co. Sportsman's Association's gun club and will attend a hearing on the case Monday.

"We are moving ahead, though progress seems slow," City Manager Jim Pearson said.

The city filed for seizure of the rubber company's 40 acres last year.

Last week, Common Pleas Judge Ronald Vettel denied the claim to the easement, saying the city, county and township does not have the right to use the privately owned Romeo Road.

The motion was filed by the city with Geneva Township and the Ashtabula County commissioners for a public highway easement from Route 20 across the gun club's property. That easement is Romeo Road, which the city, county and township have used for at least 20 years, the judgment reads.

The loss of the easement won't deter City Council from seeking Ohio Rubber's 40 acres, Pearson said.

Though Ohio Rubber board members and City Council have had limited negotiations over the property, Ohio Rubber officials have said they are not against selling the property, but feel the appraised price is a fair price.

"The property was appraised at $660,000. The city offered ORCO first $98,000 and then after mediation offered $280,000 for the land, still way below the appraisal price," ORCO attorney Robert Cahill said. "It is clear we are very far apart in negotiations," he said.

Pearson said the city has not offered $280,000, but set a price goal for the Ohio Rubber property at $2,000 per acre for 40-plus acres, including an indoor shooting range. Ohio Rubber rejected the offer and the city filed for eminent-domain proceedings.

Council has long had its eye on Ohio Rubber's land, which adjoins a proposed community park along Romeo Road, and filed an eminent domain lawsuit for the property last year.

The proposed 100-acre community park cannot move forward without the purchase, or acquisition by eminent domain, of the 40-acre outdoor shooting range. Council determined 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.

Pearson said council hasn't set a deadline or time frame for park development.

"If it were up to use we would have loved to have this resolved a year ago. All this waiting and we could have been building ball fields," he said.

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