Banking on Ravenna's future

By Micah Panczyk Record-Courier staff writer Published:

"The structure would make a beautiful addition to downtown Ravenna," Jones said based on an artist's rendering of the proposed building. "Its a great-looking building, and it certainly wouldn't hurt our tax revenues."

The city planning commission recently gave preliminary approval to the project, which would raise a 27,000 square-foot structure near the corner of East Main Street and Woodbend Drive. But despite its aesthetic and commercial appeal, the proposal is not without a hitch: a water-detention basin some officials think could prove a liability to the city.

"I'm not at all against the development, but I do have a concern for our children," said Councilman Van Harkcom during the commission meeting. "We have to ask ourselves: if this basin fills, could it be a danger to children who could fall in? Is this something the city wants to be responsible for?"

When new buildings are raised and their parking lots completed, storm water runoff increases because there is less soil to absorb surface water, said architect Ted Manfrass, who is designing the new branch. Developers are required to detain this excess until city storm lines can to accommodate it. As a result, basins can fill in heavy rains.

Roughly 28-feet long and 4 1/2 feet deep, the basin would be landscaped with rocks and shrubbery and would pose minimal risk, according to Manfrass.

"The basin's sides slope at a gentle three-to-one ratio and would fill up in only the heaviest rains," he said. "If it were full, it would remain so for only the short period of time necessary to drain. Its not as though it would be a standing pond."

Independent of the question of risk is an issue raised by City Engineer Mark Bowen, who is concerned the sink could one day become the city's responsibility.

The concern arises from the fact that the basin would be located on a parcel east of Woodbend; that is, on a parcel separate from the bank, which would be built just west of the street. As a result, Ravenna Savings could sell the western parcel independently of the eastern parcel, Bowen argued a scenario that could leave the basin without a caretaker. As a result, its management could fall to the city.

Law Director Frank Cimino is currently researching whether it is possible to collapse these separate plots into a single parcel, a remedy that would alleviate the concern Bowen has raised. Cimino said that, because a public roadway (Woodbend) separates the parcels, he is unsure whether they can be joined.

But Jones, who heads the planning commission, is not troubled by the prospect.

"It would be nice if we could have those parcels joined, but I think we'll be all right if we can't," he said. "Ravenna Savings will invest too much in this project to abandon the site anytime soon. It could be a problem 100 years down the road, but for now, I think we'll be all right."

Ravenna Savings president and chief executive officer Earl Kissell echoed the mayor's thoughts. "We are investing over two million dollars here and want to create a structure that would compliment the architecture downtown," he said. "We aren't interested in leaving the site. In the long run we hope to expand on it."

The new branch would make banking more convenient for clients and, in addition to bringing real-estate and property taxes, would bring eight new jobs to Ravenna, Kissell said.

"The move would bring our administration under a single roof," he said. "Consequently, the efficiency with which we respond to customer requests will increase dramatically."

The bank is currently located at 218 W. Main Street. The bank hopes to break ground in September, Kissell said.

The planning commission's final approval hinges on an technical review of the detention basin and the bank's street improvements to Woodbend. In addition, the city must agree to vacate a small portion of the road; that is, the city must cede ownership of that portion to the bank a transfer that would prevent the city from joining the north and south ends of Woodbend.

Residents of the Springtree development have pushed for this vacation, because it will insure that traffic volume through their neighborhood does not inflate, Jones said. Ravenna savings has agreed to the arrangement, which awaits the city council's approval.

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