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Geneva-On-The-Lake Erosion Continues And Risk To Public, Private Land Grows

Erosion problems are deepening along the Lake Erie shoreline in Geneva-on-the-Lake, affecting both private and public property. Public infrastructure could be under threat and officials are developing plans to combat the land loss in the most problematic areas.

Village officials met with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources last week to inspect areas around Geneva’s Township Park, which has lost more than 45 feet of shoreline in some areas.

The rate of erosion has been inconsistent, said Mayor Dwayne Bennett, Sr.

“Some days are worse than others,” Bennett said Tuesday morning. “A rate of probably three to six feet, some days, and then some days we won’t lose any. It’s kind of sporadic.”

Local officials are planning to put ironstone along the areas of the park seeing the worst damage, Bennett said. And voters will have a chance to approve a parks levy in March that would provide for more permanent solutions, he said, including a retention wall and jetties in the water to protect the beach area.

The park has seen the worst of the erosion in Geneva Township so far, Bennett said, but there are other areas of concern. Officials examined the area around Old Lake Road, which comes close to the shoreline and includes sewer lines and gas and water pipes.

“If we get a big storm, we could lose 10 feet, 20 feet at one time,” Bennett said. “I think we’ve got a little bit of time there, but not a lot. That’s why we’re pushing this so hard.”

Between six and eight feet of land was eroded in a 24 hour period last week at Township Park in Genva-on-the-Lake. [Tim Dubravetz / ideastream]

The village won’t shut off gas or water at this time, Bennett said, and there won’t be any interruptions for businesses in the area. But utility providers and others are monitoring the situation, Bennett said.

“If that situation does arrive, I think we’ve planned out for what we would do and we would obviously have to shut that off,” he said. “But I think as of right now, we’ll be okay.”

One potential plan involves putting in a permanent retention wall near the road, he said, but the price tag for the urgent protections is still about $1.2 million, he said, and that’s just for public property.

“The residents still have to get together and come up with the cash on their own,” Bennett said. “A lot of them can’t afford that.”

The village is planning to offer residents a chance to bid on services from the contractor working on the Township Park and Old Lake Road projects. That could allow them to bundle projects across a neighborhood and get a better price, Bennett said.

But the erosion could have long-term impact on property owners in Geneva-on-the-Lake. The area is currently undergoing state-mandated property valuations, according to Ashtabula County Auditor David Thomas, and the land loss isn’t severe enough to reduce property value or taxes.

“We can’t really take away that value of the property, unless there’s 90 percent or more loss of land in a parcel,” Thomas said.

Valuations are determined by comparable sales in the area over the past three years, which won’t necessarily account for the accelerated erosion residents are seeing right now.

“We’re actually taking a special note of all of the lakefront properties in the county and we’re doing those very last,” Thomas said. “That way we have as much of an updated look at what the status is at those properties, and what the market’s telling us, as possible.”

And erosion is already generally included in those evaluations at some level, Thomas said.

“We’ll compare similar homes in those neighborhoods that have sold over the past three years, and say, ‘Erosion impacted this house, which sold for X amount recently, and this is probably one of the factors,’” he said.

Ashtabula County is seeing an average of about five to 10 feet of lost land in the past few weeks, Thomas said, making the situation in Geneva-on-the-Lake comparably extreme. But the land underneath the water still technically belongs to the landowner, he said, and the housing market in the area is going strong despite the erosion concerns.

“Sales are showing in some areas of our county that even with erosion or other negative factors, people are still buying these properties for more and more, and putting more investment into the property,” Thomas said. “But we’re also still seeing property selling, people paying top dollar for those properties because they want that view.”

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