By Julie Perine on May 19, 2015
Called for the purpose of authorizing Mayor Bob Greer to execute documentation in connection with the transfer of 27 acres of Charles Pointe property, City Council opened tonight's meeting and went directly into executive session.
The topic of discussion was a Memorandum of Understanding, defining responsibilities of parties included in the transfer. Among others, those parties include the city, the Harrison County Commission, the Greater Bridgeport Convention and Visitors Bureau and Genesis Partners – Charles Pointe developers. The basic obligation laid out in the MOU is that once the city takes possession of the property, it must be developed – within a three- to five-year time period - into a convention center, Greater Convention and Visitors Bureau complex and an indoor health and wellness center/senior center.
The terms of the MOU - which has undergone several revisions since July 29, 2014 - were not clear enough, said some Council members at the May 11 meeting, to authorize Greer to act on Council's behalf to execute forthcoming documentation, therefore taking the property transfer to the next stage.
After spending just under an hour tonight behind closed doors, the governing body returned to Council chambers and ultimately voted unanimously to provide Greer with that authorization.
Prior to that vote, however, some questions were raised concerning the MOU terms. Councilor Darrell Bowen inquired about the slope of the proposed 27 acres and how much of the land was suitable for construction of an indoor sports/wellness complex. The bottom line, Greer said, is that once the city takes ownership of the property, there will be five years to make that determination.
"That's why we got 27 acres. We don't have any idea at this point in time how big of a complex we can put out there or how broad of a multi-use complex," he said. "We'll have five years from the date of the transfer deed which hopefully will be executed later this week."
Bowen also raised a question raised as to a proposed convention/conference center, particularly the role of additional investors beyond those defined in the MOU.
Pursuant to the terms of the MOU, said Councilor Dianna Marra, the city is committed to invest $1 million for that project. Remaining funds will be contributed by other entities, including the Greater Bridgeport CVB.
City Attorney Dean Ramsey again made the point that there is a designated time period to sort through details and develop the property. In the case of the convention center, that is a three-year period.
"If it is not developed in that amount of time, it goes back to the EODD," he said.
After the vote, Marra expressed that she had full confidence in Mayor Greer to go forward and execute the documentation in connection with the property transfer.
"Based on numerous discussions we have had and discussion of documents with legal counsel and previous discussions at last week's meeting, we expect that the finalized documents will look very much like these," she said, referred to the MOU.
Before delving into the business at hand, Council voted on the appointment of LuAnne Bush to the Bridgeport Building Commission. Members of Council had been provided with a resume for Bush, who serves as vice president of WesBanco's Johnson Avenue branch and has been in the banking/financial industry since 1978. Council voted unanimously to appoint Bush to the building committee, which meets Tuesday morning in connection with the Charles Pointe property transfer.
Before adjourning, Greer reminded those in attendance of tomorrow's groundbreaking for the city's new Veterans Memorial. That event will take place at noon at the memorial site, just across Main Street from All Saints Catholic Church.
"We'll look for all of you tomorrow and hopefully we'll have beautiful sunshine for that event," said Greer, who will serve as emcee at the ceremony.