On June 14, Sheffield Village Council heard a first reading of an ordinance to issue and sell $730,000 notes in anticipation of the sale of municipal bonds to pay for land and construction of a “tie road” extension of Preservation Drive to Transportation Boulevard. If approved, the new notes amount to a third roll over of a $589,000 borrowing in 2007 intended to purchase land owned by Spitzer Corporation. The in tent of the road would be to improve truck access to and from I-90 in order to make locations in the French Creek Business Park on Preservation Drive more attractive to new businesses.
The original $589,000 note has been rolled over twice, for $635,000 in 2008 and for $660,000 in 2009.
In 2007, the Village sought to purchase land for the connecting road and to assess property owners, including Spitzer, for the cost of constructing the tie road. When Spitzer balked, Sheffield sued in Lorain County Common Pleas Court to take the land under eminent domain. After the 2007 election, but before Mayor John Hunter took office, the court ruled Sheffield Village had the right to take the land by eminent domain and the administration released the $589,000 held in escrow.
Spitzer then countersued, seeking more for the land, which has been rendered unbuildable in the meanwhile; it was clear-cut before Sheffield’s logging ordinance was passed in 2005. With no trees to absorb rainwater, the land is now classified as wetlands. The counter-suit is still pending.
Preservation Drive was put in during the late 1990’s construction boom. It runs eastward off East River Road but stops short of Transportation Drive, which winds northward off Detroit Road near the I-90 access ramps. Village Council financed the infrastructure and construction of Preservation Drive with tax increment financing and used a developer’s line of credit to pay the interest. By the time the line of credit ran out, only a German auto parts company – which closed down its operation and moved out earlier this year – had built one facility in the French Creek Business Park.
Clerk-Treasurer Tim Pelcic asked council on June 14 to suspend the three-reading rule and pass the rollover legislation on second reading June 28 to allow a few weeks to sell the note before this year’s interest (about $70,000) comes due.
“The previous administration said all the other adjacent property owners were willing to pay assessments and the court took their word for it,” Hunter said. “The truth is no other property owners are willing to be assessed. We’re still in court over this, the case is being continued. Now Spitzer is trying to show that the land is worth more than $589,000 and the Village is trying to show that it’s worth less than that. While the case is continued we’re still in negotiations with Spitzer over the price, and we’re in negotiations with the other property owners over the assessments. We’d like to be able to sell the land back to Spitzer but we may be forced to buy the land and assess the other property owners in order to build that road.”