Aurora Golf Club appeal is dismissed

By Mike Lesko | Aurora Advocate Published:

The final chapter of an appeal regarding the sale of the Aurora Golf Club property apparently has been written.

"The city was recently advised that the pending appeal had been dismissed with prejudice," Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said. "Since the case was dismissed with prejudice, that means it can't be filed again, so we believe it probably can't proceed.

"So from a legal perspective, I am told the city should be able to begin implementing the plans to restore the Chagrin River and to improve the pathways and connections on the property," she said.

Six Aurora residents filed an appeal in January 2013 to the state's Environmental Review Appeals Commission, claiming the Ohio EPA's granting of $4.7 million for the city to acquire the Aurora Golf Club was "unlawful and unreasonable."

The appeal claimed the city was seeking the land "to pursue a hidden agenda ... The city has not been open and honest about its hidden agenda for this land and has acted to rush this application through without sufficient accountability."

The commission announced the decision in mid-December.

Womer Benjamin said she, Law Director Dean DePiero, Service Director John Trew and City Council President George Horvat met on Jan. 17 with representatives of the stakeholders in the river restoration project: Chagrin River Watershed Partners, Trust for Public Land and Cleveland area sewer district.

While the city can maintain the golf cart paths, it is not permitted to mow most of the golf course land under the terms of the grant agreement, in which money would be used to restore the Aurora branch of the Chagrin River.

The Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program funding allowed the city to acquire the acreage, remove man-made structures, restore the river's natural flow and floodplain and forever protect the property.

The ERAC hears and resolves appeals resulting from technical and legal final actions taken by various agencies, including the Ohio EPA, and is the highest level of administrative appeal for final actions of those agencies. Decisions of the commission may be appealed to the courts.

The sale of the golf course property on Trails End, where residents had golfed for more than 80 years, became official Feb. 7, 2013, when the city gained title from Aurora Recreation LLC.

Aurora resident George Heisler, who led the appeal, did not return a call requesting comment.

Contact this reporter at 330-541-9400 ext. 4187 or mlesko@recordpub.com

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