Bainbridge Township and the City of Aurora together took a significant step for the region this week by signing an agreement for a Joint Economic Development District involving the Geauga Lake area – land that for the most part has remained vacant since the amusement park closed down more than 13 years ago.

Generations of families have fond memories of the park off of Route 43. The recreational area opened in 1887 with rides added two years later and the now famous Big Dipper roller coaster changing the landscape when it was built in 1925. Geauga Lake Amusement Park was later joined by Sea World for many years as well as Wild Water Kingdom.

But the future of the 650 acres owned by Cedar Fair LLC has hung in the balance as local leaders continued to work on creating mixed-use zoning and pathways to development that would enhance the area for residents.

One early action that came from the two communities after the amusement park’s closure was compatible zoning for the 350 acres in Bainbridge and the 300 acres in Aurora with a vision of consistent growth. Meijer, a Michigan supermarket chain, eyed a location on the Bainbridge side about five years ago but hit a stumbling block with the lack of water and sewer lines that could only come from Geauga County or the City of Aurora since townships do not typically have the capacity to build this type of infrastructure.

Liberty Ford moved from Solon to a portion of the former Geauga Lake land in the City of Aurora in 2018, paying $1.43 million for 14 acres and receiving a 75-percent tax abatement from the city.

PulteGroup, Inc. now owns 245 acres of Geauga Lake land in Aurora and is in the process of building Renaissance Park, a mixed-use community with residential housing, 20 acres of commercial area and 97 acres of parkland. It is expected to begin opening this coming spring. The Atlanta-based builder paid $2 million to Cedar Fair of Sandusky for the land, according to Portage County records. Plans call for some nostalgia, including a street named Dipper Lane after the famous roller coaster, and a street named River Run Road after the Grizzly River Run water ride that so many enjoyed.

Fortunately, Bainbridge reopened JEDD talks with Aurora earlier this year after walking away from a proposal in 2017.

This time around, votes over the JEDD were unanimous with Bainbridge trustees and Aurora City Council. The JEDD calls for Aurora to provide sanitary sewer and water services to 22 parcels between Route 43 and Depot Road to the border shared by the township and city. Bainbridge will provide road construction and both communities will offer mutual aid for firefighting and EMS services.

Income tax revenue within the JEDD will be divided into four equal parts between Aurora, Bainbridge, a utility fund and a maintenance and improvement fund, according to the agreement.

Bainbridge Trustee Jeff Markley noted the worthiness of the agreement while Trustee Lorrie Sass Benza said “the potential for an economic impact to Geauga County is huge.”

Huge indeed.

This impact will not only be felt in Bainbridge and Aurora, but also Solon and other border communities.

The JEDD was a long time coming, and we applaud the leaders of the township and city for finally hammering out this agreement. We hope that Bainbridge and Aurora keep a watchful eye to ensure that future projects continue to enhance both communities.

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