CUYAHOGA FALLS: City officials want to present an update on Portage Crossing today at City Council’s regular meeting, but whether they do will be up to the council president.
Legislation to amend the sales contract between the city and Stark Enterprises for the retail development at State Road and Portage Trail is not on the council’s agenda, but Falls Development Director Sue Truby would like to bring it up at the 6:30 p.m. meeting.
However, there are only two ways to get the council to consider action on the matter — either have a special Finance Committee Meeting within the council meeting or have Council President Don Walters accept a request and have two-thirds of council approve it.
The goal is to have the contract signed before the International Council of Shopping Centers meets in Las Vegas May 18, said Truby.
But Finance Committee Chairwoman Carol Klinger said she is not calling for a special meeting.
Truby said if they have to wait until the next committee meeting, she’s not sure everyone involved with the contract can attend.
“We plan to present it Monday,” Truby said. “I don’t think any council member would look at the audience and knowing it’s the most important project in the city, say ‘we don’t want to hear this this evening.’ ”
Klinger, who has expressed reservations about the project in the past, said her objection isn’t with the content. She objects to what seems like a last-minute meeting that could leave council members unprepared and residents without enough notice to attend.
“We had a [Finance Committee] meeting April 15,” Klinger said. “Less than 48 hours later, they’re asking for a special meeting.”
Klinger accused Mayor Don Robart of catering to developer Bob Stark.
“The mayor is yielding to a wealthy developer who is going to make money off our taxpayers,” Klinger said. “What if someone who wants to be there is out of town and doesn’t see it in the paper until Monday? This is just absurd. It’s such a manipulation. On a project this big, they should have had their act together.”
Part of the amended contract has the city reimbursing Stark for electricity in the common areas of Portage Crossing, up to $50,000 annually for 10 years.
Stark would also receive a portion of the admissions tax from the theater.
If approved, the property sale will close in June, with a summer groundbreaking.
Klinger wants more time to examine those issues.
“We haven’t turned one shovel of dirt yet and we just keep giving him more and more money. It’s very frustrating,” she said.
The legislation was introduced in October, and placed on hold in November after problems surfaced with the owner of an outlot currently leased by Pizza Hut.
The owner asked for $3.5 million for the piece of land, which Stark needed for Menard’s home improvement store.
Without that land, Menard’s could not build in Portage Crossing and Stark needed to find a new tenant.
Robart said Menard’s is still planning a Cuyahoga Falls store.
Cinemark is on track to replace Menard’s with a 10-screen movie theater, leaving at least three available outlots for Stark to fill.
Truby said Stark would like to find those tenants at the May convention.
That means council will need to discuss and vote on the contract by the May 13 meeting at the earliest.
The next finance committee meeting is scheduled for May 6. There is no meeting next week, although one could be scheduled if needed.
Robart said there are 23 days before the contract needs to be signed.
“Carol Klinger can call a Finance Committee meeting every day for 23 days,” Robart said. “There’s plenty of time to have input. It’s just difficult to get everyone together.”
Robart said he is happy Portage Crossing is moving forward.
“I want to get this moving,” he said. “I’m excited to have the groundbreaking.