Waterville residents turned in a petition to overturn a city council resolution to construct a large amphitheater and concert venue on the city’s western edge. They plan to put the project on the ballot as a public referendum.
Waterville residents gathered 1,101 signatures within six days for the final petition. They want to see the resolution on the ballot in a future election. Waterville City Council approved resolution 4-2 on November 28th.
The Waterville Landing Entertainment District would construct an amphitheater that would hold 7,500 to 9,375 people. It also would include 22-25 box suites, lifted berm lawn areas, video screens, special audio and lighting, and on-site parking for 2,500 cars. Developers say there will also be restaurants, hotels, and other entertainment amenities. If the project goes as planned, developers hope it can open as soon as May 2023 and will cost north of $20 million.
The opposition focused on if the process surrounding the amphitheater resolution, which the city council adopted as an administrative action, also contained some legislative portions. City officials have argued that there is no contention and that a referendum on an administrative action would not be legal.
According to the Waterville city charter, section 3.13 states that “any measure that is acted upon at a special meeting of Council shall require the affirmative votes of at least five members of Council for its enactment.”
According to admin Wayne Wagner for the Not in My Backyard group, who has spearheaded the petition, the city council labeled every meeting regarding the amphitheater as the city of Waterville Special City Council Meeting. Council members have mentioned it six times in the agenda as a special meeting.
“Our elected leaders should be held accountable when mistakes are made and especially when mistakes are pointed out then ignored. This is exactly why they’ve been labeled as corrupt. We all know they voted 4-2 to pass it and I believe they are incorrectly allowing it to move forward,” Wagner said.
When brought to the city’s attention Waterville Law Director Philip Dombey told Wagner to “file a lawsuit then.”
Although the city maintains that there were no legislative portions to the resolution, according to Wagner, two attorneys who championed a referendum in a neighboring town reached out to him and said, “some of the things council did were legislative.”
“We are not against Growth, We are for keeping our City safe for the residents and only building what legally fits the city correctly,” Wagner said.
A similar parallel effort to recall two city council members is also ongoing surrounding council members Anthony Bruno and John Rozic, both of whom voted for the amphitheater resolution. The recall petition states that Bruno and Rozic “disregarded the interests of the community in his lack of due diligence and vote on the amphitheater special zoning matter.”
Waterville residents also say that the amphitheater would do more harm than good. They said there’s no need for an outdoor music space when other venues exist in the region, such as the Huntington Center and the Centennial Terrace.
“I’ve lived in Toledo most of my life, but I’ve been out here for 35 years. I’m the first one that would go to an outdoor rock concert, but there’s venues in Cleveland, Detroit, even Fort Wayne, places like that. I don’t understand why we need one here when those are accessible,” resident Jim Christian said.
According to resident Tim Plowman, some of the most important protections for the city lie within section 531 of the city code, which aims to protect the citizens of Waterville from nuisances.
“It’s a violation to have a dog that is too loud, it’s also a violation for your car stereo to be audible from over 50 feet. To believe that an amphitheater that will be heard in multiple adjacent cities and townships falls within the intent of this section seems in-congruent with reality to me,” Plowman said.
Supporters say the new spot will be the next great regional venue, ideally bringing back the music scene to the Toledo area.
“I think it’s going to definitely bring back that spark in Toledo to start hosting music, stuff related to the arts. Toledo, at one point, was the center of music, you know, anyone who was anyone played here,” sales associate at Third Street Cigar Records Juan Guerro said.
The city has 10 days to submit the signatures for verification and then 30 days to decide if they want to challenge the result or allow the initiative to go to a referendum.
According to Wagner, they hope to get a vote either in the spring or at the November general election.
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