Kent mall proposal may be dropped

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

An ordinance rescinding the agreement with the Simon DeBartolo Group has been drafted by Law Director James Silver, but may not be discussed until December or January, said Finance Committee Chairman Ronald Heineking.

"We've got a considerable amount of money tied up in the mall, but it doesn't look like it's going to go forward," he said.

Heineking said his committee will discuss the ordinance once the annual budget process has ended. The hearings could tie up the committee through November and possibly December, he said.

Once the date of the meeting is set, the developer and Portage County commissioners, who have a similar agreement with them, will be invited to attend, Silver said.

In 1990, the city set aside about $900,000 for infrastructure improvements around the 56-acre site at S.R. 43 and S.R. 261. Unlike the planning commission approvals for the mall, which have expired, the development agreement is valid until the developers or the city acts to terminate them.

Portage County commissioners, who also set aside $4.75 million for road and storm sewer improvements related to the mall, had previously talked about canceling their agreements and spending the money on other purposes, but stated they would follow Kent's lead.

The city, county and developer have amended the development agreement several times. The city's and county's obligations are linked to a "notice to proceed" from the developer, indicating an intention to start construction of the mall, the ordinance states. The most recent amendment required a notice to proceed to be submitted by March 1996, but no such notice has been received.

Councilman Wayne Wilson said he and other council members have advocated canceling the mall agreements for a long time, but have been waiting for the law director to present an ordinance.

"We in all good faith gave them more than their time," he said. "We've been waiting and waiting, and it didn't happen."

Even if the agreement is canceled, council members said it's unlikely they could elect to spend the money on whatever purpose they choose.

If the money came from the city's water or sewer fund, the money would legally be required to be returned to those funds, Wilson said.

Heineking said he couldn't think of any projects that need to be addressed, but said he is sure there are several water and sewer projects in the city that need to be done.

City officials have previously stated some improvements in the mall agreement, like improved sewer service to the south end of town, need to be done whether or not the mall is built.

Kent Service Director Dennis Missimi has said the need for upgraded sewers in the area would have to be evaluated if council decides to discontinue the mall agreements.

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