Gahanna City Council representatives and members of the city administration are working to come up with an agreement that would allow a path linking M/I Homes' Weldon development and Jefferson Township to Hannah Park, 6547 Clark State Road, to remain usable.
The path is north of the Weldon development off Darling and Reynoldsburg-New Albany roads. It has connected residents to the rear of the park near a pond.
This is just something that shouldn't have happened. And again, I accept your apology because I asked for your apology. And thank you for giving it. But please don't say you didn't know. I really think M/I knew this.Gahanna City Council member Karen Angelou
"From M/I's perspective, we believe we had an agreement in place" for the path, said Josh Barkan, vice president of land for M/I Homes Inc., at a May 28 council committee meeting.
Issues began when residents noticed the path they were using to reach the park had been closed and the gravel was being removed in late April.
Gahanna Mayor Tom Kneeland had said the city's planning and development team last year worked diligently to come to an agreement with M/I Homes that would have provided access, but the agreement didn't come to fruition. M/I then was told to restore the area to its previous condition.
"There was a lot of back and forth on this through the zoning process with Gahanna and Jefferson Township. Aside from that, we worked diligently with some of the administration members and believed we had come to an agreement that was a very good deal for our residents but also a very good financial deal for the city of Gahanna," he said.
As M/I started developing Weldon, Barkan said, a consensus was reached on the path's location, and M/I had it staked.
"At that point, we (M/I) put down an aggregate base to get started," Barkan said. "That was kind of the beginning of the issue. From there, there were several discussions on how we could resolve it. Ultimately, it wound up with us pulling up the aggregate base."
He said he has been asked a few times how M/I officials didn't know council's approval was needed.
"The honest answer is, we assumed that we had it," Barkan said.
Gahanna development director Anthony Jones said no equation was used to come up with the figure of M/I paying $150,000 for the nearly 30-yard path when it was first discussed.
"In late 2016, we thought $150,000 was a number to present to council," he said. "We were saying, 'Is $150,000 an amount we can justify?' We wanted a number high enough for council to consider."
The city has not received financial compensation for the path as of this point.
Before an agreement could be reached and the necessary legal and contractual steps taken, M/I Homes began work on the path, according to Kneeland.
Council member Karen Angelou said things are done by contract and legislation.
"This is just something that shouldn't have happened," she told Barkan. "And again, I accept your apology because I asked for your apology. And thank you for giving it. But please don't say you didn't know. I really think M/I knew this."
Angelou said M/I representatives didn't talk to the right people.
In terms of moving forward, council member Brian Larick said, possibilities include setting a front-end payment and then an amount in perpetuity that could come from a homeowner's association. He said council's responsibility is to city residents.
"Regardless of the reasons and back story, the property adjacent isn't within our community," Larick said.
"To provide an amenity, a resource that costs a significant amount of money that has to be maintained in perpetuity, directly to an external party, isn't necessarily taking appropriate action from my perspective with regards to the citizens of Gahanna," he said.
Barkan said he has submitted in writing that M/I would pay $150,000.
"That would be my preference," he said. "If the answer is no, I'll repackage it however you want for the sake of negotiations. If the answer is that it needs to be more than $150,000, I can't agree to that right now."
He said $150,000 is a lot for what is being discussed.
"From our standpoint, $150,000 is cleaner," Barkan said. "It's a lump sum for you to do what you please. We're going to maintain the path in perpetuity."
Council President Brian Metzbower thanked Barkan and said he inherited some of the issues.
"What I'm hearing from colleagues is (an amount in) perpetuity, long-term -- for life -- infinity," he said. "A couple of us will knock out some sort of an agreement that makes sense and bring it back to this body for overall discussion and debate."
Council member Nancy McGregor said taking $150,000 up front might be the best option.
"I'm willing to listen to see what you come up with," she said. "Sometimes the simplest is the best."
Metzbower, Leeseberg, Jones, parks and recreation director Jeff Barr and Kneeland will meet to come up with a proposal for consideration by council and M/I at a date to be announced.