Future of Melody Parks housing, retail development uncertain

A vote to approve the plot of land to be used in a housing development failed at a regional planning commission meeting.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

After a somewhat contentious meeting on Thursday, the Central CEDA Regional Planning Commission (CEDA) denied separating a plot of land that is planned to have a housing development with retail space as well, leaving its future uncertain.

The development, Melody Parks, which would take up 400 acres along East National Road near Bird Road, would include retail, restaurants, multi-family apartments, patio and single-family residential components. It is unclear what the next steps are for the project.

Board members voted down the proposal for the land 4-3. Board members who voted it down did not cite a rule that the project would violate.

“I mean, I think we all know why we voted no; now we can sit here and make up something if you want us to make up something for the sake of paperwork ...” Chairperson Dan Kelly told Clark County Development Director Alex Dietz when he asked the board to cite a section of code as the reason for the denial.

Kelly said he is unhappy that the Springfield Division of Police has not yet officially approved the project, though Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck said that Chief Allison Elliott approves of it despite the lack of official paperwork being submitted.

Columbus-based developer Borror is leading the $400 million Melody Parks project, a nod to the former drive-in at the site. Officials said it is the largest project of its kind in the area in decades.

Springfield City Commissioners last month amended a Community Reinvestment Area to include the residential portion of the development, meaning up to 700 planned single-family houses would not be taxed on their new values for 15 years as an incentive for the project.

Heck said to the CEDA board the purpose of the meeting Thursday was to determine whether the development could be built on that subdivision plat — which is the map in which the developer’s plan of subdivision is located — not taking into account a potential Tax Incremental Financing Program (TIF) or the CRA.

Heck said following the vote that the city will consult legal counsel to work out its next steps.

“It’s disappointing to see the board not adhere to the requirements of the board which state that with the plat, we’re specifically looking at technical requirements and if those technical requirements are met,” Heck said. “And as you heard at the board meeting, they don’t have any technical requirements that were not met.”

Jeff Fontaine, Borror president, said many aspects of the project are evolving.

CEDA includes representatives from the city, Springfield Twp. and the county.

Board member Theresa Hartley, who represents Clark County and voted to approve the plat, said she thought many other board members were “deviating” from what was required to consider the case and instead focusing on “other political things that haven’t even been decided.”

Clark-Shawnee Local Schools, which will be the home school district for any students whose families move into Melody Parks, has expressed concerns about an influx of new students from the development. The district also opposed a previous proposed tax plan, a proposed TIF, for the single-family properties.

Superintendent Brian Kuhn said the residential component of Melody Parks could result in more than 375 new students for the district.

Kuhn said the CRA presents a challenge for the district, as it would add those students without contributing taxes for the school.

Kuhn said the district would have to pass a levy to close the gap between state funding and local funds by passing a levy. He said the state does not look at potential future growth when it allots funds.

“We built on the state-permitted enrollment study, which did not account for a growth of this magnitude,” Kuhn said.

Kelly said that he is concerned that the development would overwhelm the school district with an influx of new students and negatively impact its high test scores.

Springfield Twp. trustee Tim Foley said Thursday the development would end up “burying” the township and school district. He said the township would be responsible for road maintenance and if there was no TIF or CRA involved, he would support the development.

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