Local leaders question merit of economic agreement of county, city and township

Is Community Economic Development Agreement still relevant?

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

County, city and township officials are questioning the value of an economic deal between the city of Springfield and Springfield Twp. as it currently stands.

The Cooperative Economic Development Agreement is “at a crossroads,” and a review of the agreement between Springfield, Springfield Twp. and the county is necessary, Clark County Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt said.

“I think it’s important to know the (Central CEDA Regional Planning Commission of Clark County) board’s major function is to review applications for rezoning requests and then forward their recommendation to the respective zoning commission, which then holds public hearings to review and approve those major subdivisions,” Flax Wilt said. “And they have really gone beyond reviewing the applications to ensure that they comply and have gone to the next step — really deciding whether or not they want these there.”

CEDA’s role

Flax Wilt said Springfield Twp. has received about $5 million from a TIF agreement since the beginning of CEDA.

The Community Economic Development Agreement (CEDA) was put in place in 1999 and expires in 2050. It was signed by township trustees, city commissioners and county commissioners.

Springfield Mayor Rob Rue said the CEDA is unnecessary with state laws having changed since the agreement’s inception and recent economic development. He said that the city has built and will build fire stations and police substations near annexed land.

When the CEDA was implemented, property that was annexed from a township would become detached from that township. Laws have changed since then, and annexed land is no longer detached.

In recent years, the city approved the 226-unit Bridgewater housing development, and entered into a Tax Incremental Funding (TIF) agreement with the developer. The TIF, which is aimed at attracting and subsidizing new investments, means that the township won’t receive an increase in property tax from the new homes for 30 years.

In September, Springfield City Commissioners 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.

Springfield Twp. Trustee Tim Foley said the TIF reduces real estate tax revenue for both the township and Clark-Shawnee Local Schools, though this is not part of CEDA.

Foley said residential developments annexed within the CEDA territory “creates additional responsibility” for the township by increasing how much road mileage it maintains.

“[CEDA] may have flaws in that it does not address residential development,” Foley said. “However, the real financial issue is the TIF and CRA programs, which are not part of CEDA, and are imposed by the city.”

Foley said last year the township received $528,358 from city income tax sharing. One part of this is CEDA revenue and another is part of an agreement related to Prime Ohio in which the township received 5% of income tax generated.

Rue said if the CEDA were dissolved, only the allotment the city pays the would change. He said the city would continue taking care of road maintenance, snow removal and other things.

“Because of how legislation has changed, I feel like it’s a waste of time then for the board members who are active in community things and participating, and it’s kind of a space where we just don’t really need the input,” Rue said.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Rue said the CEDA can only be dissolved if all parties agree to do so. He said the city is interested in discussing the possibility further and bettering the community however it can.

“We would like to have a better relationship with Springfield Twp. and their leadership, we would like to work hand-in-hand to grow these areas,” Rue said. “We don’t like to be in conflict, but we will push forward with an agenda that is better for the community.”

Recent issues with the CEDA Planning Commission

The board was left with three of seven members standing after three violated attendance policies for membership and the chair resigned following a somewhat contentious meeting. Replacements for board members have been appointed, and the board will appoint a new chair.

This meeting, conducted last month, was to review and vote on whether to approve a plat, or a plot of land, to be used for Melody Parks, which is planned to be built on 400 acres along East National Road near Bird Road. It would include retail, restaurants, multi-family apartments, patio and single-family residential components.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

People including Clark-Shawnee Superintendent Brian Kuhn and Foley brought up concerns related to increased student enrollment and the township’s responsibility for road maintenance. Many board members echoed these concerns.

The board voted down the plat proposal 4-3, and when asked to cite a section of code as the reason for the denial, board Chairperson Dan Kelly told Clark County Development Director J. Alex Dietz the board could make something up.

“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 ...” Kelly said.

Kelly wrote in his resignation letter that he was displeased with the timing of the three board members vacating their seats after they had already voted on the Melody Parks plat. He said that many people are upset about “the vindictive actions” by the Springfield City Commission in approving the CRA, creating larger class sizes, an increased demand for busing and a greater need for teachers and services for students with functional needs.

The planning commission conducteda public meeting earlier this month, in which Dietz shared with the two board members in attendance that the plat had passed by default due to three votes being nullified, bringing the total to 2-2. When no further action was taken, it was approved automatically.

Clark-Shawnee filed a civil lawsuit against the CEDA planning commission and its members after the meeting, saying it violated open meetings laws by conducted a meeting without a full quorum, which would be four members. At the time, only three people made up the board. Kuhn said that the lawsuit asks for a preliminary injunction to stop the board from taking any action, for the court to compel the board to comply with the Ohio Open Meetings Act and to forfeit $500 and pay court costs and attorney fees.

Kuhn said because during Wednesday’s meeting board members were “publicly informed and publicly acknowledged the action” related to the Melody Parks land use agreement, they violated the Ohio Revised Code and CEDA rules.

Flax Wilt said the county would like to see Melody Parks developer Borror, the city, the township and the school district all work together to make the development “beneficial for all parties.”

“We want to send the message that we are open for development, that we are welcoming to people who love this community as much as we do and we’re open to that growth,” Flax Wilt said.

About the Author