The Medina County Port Authority on Tuesday approved a resolution to negotiate the transfer of 20 acres of the county’s Innovation Park to Lafayette Township for a new fire department and other administrative uses.
Lafayette Township Trustee Lynda Bowers, who attended the Port Authority meeting, said the township will “make a decision on April 11 that will fast-track” the fire station and other plans.
“We’re moving forward with zoning regardless,” she said.
Just five miles southwest of Medina’s Public Square, the 100-acre Innovation Park property has been under development by the Port Authority for nearly 15 years off state Route 162 in Lafayette Township.
Construction for the technology park began in October 2005, two years after the Port Authority was formed.
Utilities — water, sewer and electric — have been installed at the property at the county’s expense — about $300,000, said Bethany Dentler, executive director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp.
The county also received a $1.2 million state grant to add roads to the parcel.
The property also has access to the Medina County Fiber Network.
However, the property still doesn’t have any occupants besides the University of Akron’s Medina County University Center. The university signed on at the technology park’s inception in 2003.
Dentler and other county officials previously have said the economic recession from 2007 -09 dampened business interest in the project. They also have said that some technology-heavy companies require up to 5 megawatts of electricity, while the park only offers 1 megawatt. Such an upgrade could cost several hundred thousand dollars.
Last August, officials switched real estate agencies, hoping to boost interest in the park. The Port Authority selected NAI Cummins Real Estate to advertise and sell available parcels.
Dentler said Tuesday interest has increased, “but I can’t really quantify it in any way.”
Lafayette Township trustees have hired Daniel Frederick Architects LLC of Milan, Ohio, to draft plans for their new fire station at a cost of about $20,000.
Township voters approved a 2.5-mill levy Nov. 8 that will generate about $267,000 a year and cost property owners $87.50 a year per $100,000 of valuation. The levy will generate about $4 million over 15 years for the station.
With a price tag of an estimated $3.4 million, the station will be about 15,000 square feet.
IAP Government Services Group of Columbus is the general contractor. A work session has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday at the township hall, 6776 Wedgewood Road.
One county official at the Port Authority meeting questioned the timing of the land transfer.
“It would be highly unusual for the county to give away, what is arguably very valuable land, particularly to an entity that just passed a bond levy for $4 million to build a fire station,” county Auditor Mike Kovack said.
The language of Tuesday’s resolution states: “The Medina County Port Authority authorizes the chair and/or other officers to negotiate an acquisition agreement of land in Innovation Park by Lafayette Township for use of township government services which incorporates certain conditions and which is in conjunction with the Medina County Commissioners, the final version of which would be brought back to the Port Authority Board for approval.”
The county’s civil prosecutor, Mike Lyons, is studying the legal issues surrounding the transfer of land to Lafayette on behalf of the county and the township.
Lyons said Wednesday he was asked by commissioners to begin studying the transfer early last year but that “the issue could go back further than that.”
Lyons said the county is not required under the Ohio Revised Code to conduct an appraisal of the land or disclose its cost before transferring it to the township.
“If the county owns the land, the commissioners have the authority to transfer it to another public entity,” he said.
Asked how other county government entities would be compensated if such a transfer took place, Lyons replied, “They aren’t.”
Contact reporter Marina Malenic at (330) 721-4063 or email@example.com.