Meadville Tribune

Local News

April 2, 2014

Economic Progress Alliance pitches alternatives to Conneaut Lake Park's tax sale

MEADVILLE — Mark Turner, executive director of the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County, approached Crawford County Commissioners at their work session Tuesday morning to discuss a proposal for Conneaut Lake Park, which is scheduled to be sold for back property taxes this fall.

He outlined the potential for positive economic benefit that involves placing the park under the temporary control of the Economic Progress Alliance to repurpose it as it would a blighted area and reorganize it as if it were a bankrupt corporation.

Turner called the park and surrounding grounds a unique asset he wishes to see stay in public use, rather than fall under private ownership in the event of a tax sale, though he believes the sale was rightfully established by the county.

Conneaut Lake Park is scheduled to be sold for back property taxes at the county’s annual September tax upset sale since the amusement park owes more than $750,000 to various municipal governments. This year’s tax sale is scheduled for Sept. 26.

As of Dec. 31, 2013, a total of $752,692.77 in overdue property taxes, interest and penalties was owed to the county, Summit and Sadsbury townships, and Conneaut School District by Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park — dating back to 1997, according to figures from the Crawford County Treasurer’s Office.

Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park is a corporation that oversees the public trust that owns the park. Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park has been in charge of the park since 2007.

Commissioner Jack Lynch credited Turner’s mention of the Economic Progress Alliance track record. The EPA has rehabilitated areas like the Bessemer and former Avtex sites.

Lynch also echoed the notion that all local control and public input are lost if the park is purchased through tax sale. He hopes to somehow maintain that local influence.

Turner emphasized, however, that EPA’s purchase of the park would be inappropriate and that the property should be dedicated to the public as an open, decommercialized park area with the potential for a retail-based midway, a performing arts or music center, year-round activities and more.

He asked commissioners for help in the authoritative aspect, claiming that while the EPA has the experience, willingness and resources to handle the park’s gradual rehabilitation, his discussions with the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park have been inconclusive.

Commissioners reacted favorably to Turner’s proposal but made no official decision on the matter.

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