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New use in works for Green’s Belden Lodge

12/13/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

GREEN — Adding a world-renowned chef to a city-owned lodge is a recipe for success, according to city of Green officials.

At the Dec. 11 meeting of the Environmental and Parks Committee, Service Director Randall Monteith announced the proposed sale of the Belden Lodge for the creation of a gourmet restaurant, banquet center and winery.

“This is going to be a tremendous project for our city,” said Councilman Chris Humphrey (at large).

Council is considering legislation to sell the Belden Lodge and 8.71 acres of land adjacent to it in Southgate Park, 5300 Massillon Road, to Table for Life LLC, owned by several investors, including accomplished French chef Kent Welsh, of Holmes County.

Welsh has vast experience establishing restaurants around the globe, catering the Emmy and Grammy awards and working with Chef Wolfgang Puck, according to city officials.

Monteith explained Welsh recently closed his Millersburg restaurant, known as The Table, to bring a similar concept — “from the farm to the table” — to Green.

Welsh’s vision for the Belden Lodge includes a banquet and wedding facility; gourmet catering; onsite winery; producing retail product lines; gourmet cooking classes; and nutritional consultations for families, he said.

Monteith told Council the city acquired the Belden Lodge as part of the Southgate property in 2006, but the building has not been used by the public, as it is not in compliance with fire codes and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

He explained it would cost the city more than $1 million to renovate the property for public use. Currently, the city is paying about $12,000 to maintain the vacant facility annually, he added.

Monteith said the city administration listed the Belden Lodge with Howard Hanna Real Estate in the fall of 2011, and the property caught the eye of Welsh.

Negotiations for the sale of the property have been in the works for several months, he said.

Through a proposed sale agreement, Table for Life would purchase the facility from the city, which would serve as the banker for the transaction, he said.

Monteith explained the city plans to sell Table for Life the lodge for $600,000. The city is offering Table for Life a 20-year loan, with a 3.25 percent interest rate, for the sale. He added Table for Life has to put 15 percent down on the purchase of the facility, and proceeds from the sale would be used by the Parks Board for future projects.

Law Director Steve Pruneski told Council it is “unusual” for a city to serve as a banker, but it is legal to do so since the lending is being done to create commerce. He added the proposed business would add numerous jobs to Green.

Monteith said he is not comfortable at this time estimating how many new jobs the facility would create.

Monteith said Table for Life, as part of the agreement, would be given a performance bond for improvements to the property. The improvements would total $600,000 to $1 million, he said. The city would pay 10 percent of the improvements, Monteith added.

If for any reason the venture fails, the city would have the first right to reject the future sale of the property and ultimately could regain ownership of the site, he explained to Council.

“We want to make sure it succeeds,” Monteith added.

According to the service director, now is the right time to sell the property, as it lost about $140,000 in value from 2011 to 2012.

Additionally, Monteith explained the city would earn $200,000 in interest through the 20-year loan. At the end of the 20 years, Green would have gained about $120,000 through income tax collections and $10,000 through property tax collections, he said. Monteith added the 20-year loan would provide Green Local Schools with a total of $168,000 in property taxes.

Monteith told Council the city would save $235,000 in maintenance and utilities by not having to maintain the facility during the 20-year loan period.

He also said Table for Life plans to add water and sewer to the facility and create a driveway off Massillon Road to get to the property.

Since the lodge is surrounded by the city’s park, precautions would be taken to ensure no motorist could enter the park from the facility for safety reasons, Monteith said.

Council anticipates voting on the sale of the property at the Jan. 8 meeting. After the approval of the sale, Council would need to approve a special-use permit before the final transfer of the property, Monteith said. Once the property is transferred to Table for Life, renovations are expected to take six months, he said. Table for Life would like to open the facility before the summer of 2013, Monteith added.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will review the special-use permit request at the meeting Dec. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Green Central Administration Building (CAB), 1755 Town Park Blvd., he said.

During the regular meeting, which followed the committee meetings, Council awarded a $337,808 contract to St. Clair Pavlis Group for the Boettler Park Restroom Project, which would include the remodeling of the existing restroom facility and the addition of a new building for restrooms. City officials said construction will begin on the project in early 2013. Parks Superintendent Mike Elkins explained the new restroom facility will be located in close proximity to the Heritage Hill Playground and feature four restroom stalls for women and four for men. With the improvements, the existing restroom facility also will offer four stalls for men and four for women, he said.

“The additional restrooms are needed. This is our most visited park,” Elkins said.

Also during the regular meeting, Council awarded a $367,285 contract to Vizmeg Landscaping Inc. for the addition of two new baseball fields at East Liberty Park. Construction is set to begin in early spring, Elkins said. The project also would include the addition of a walkway to the new fields and the installation of aluminum bleachers. He said the fenced fields would serve children ages 5-11. Elkins added an additional ball field is proposed for Greensburg Park for 2014.

Council also adopted the 2013 annual operating appropriations for the General Fund. The appropriations for 2013 are about $33.2 million, and revenues are expected to be at $34 million, said Councilman John Summerville (Ward 4).

Council also awarded a $290,628 contract with Rudzik Excavating for the Spade Road storm sewer improvements project and an approximate $70,000 contract with Perram Electric for the 2012 South Main Street and West Nimisila Road traffic signal improvement project.

In addition, several Council and mayoral appointments were approved and announced. Jeff Noble will serve another two-year term on the Design Review Board; Jerry Alessia, another six-year term on the Civil Service Commission; Matt Aloisi, another five-year term on the Board of Zoning of Appeals; Dwight Yoder, another five-year term on the Planning and Zoning Commission; and John Warmus, another two-year term on the Design Review Board.

Mayor Dick Norton also appointed James Schweikert to a three-year term on the Historic Preservation Commission to replace Amy Nichols, whose term ends at the end of the month.

Before the close of the meeting, the city administration reminded residents to remove items, including basketball hoops, from the streets in preparation for snow and ice removal.

Council will meet for an organizational meeting Jan. 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the CAB to set Council rules and elect a Council president and vice president.

The next Council meeting will take place Jan. 8 beginning at 5 p.m. for committee meetings and at 7 p.m. for the regular meeting in Council Chambers at the CAB.

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