A proposed Springfield housing project could potentially be a tipping point to bring other investment into Clark County, but the project has its critics who argued the homes wouldn’t benefit local schools or an adjacent township for years.
The city of Springfield is pushing ahead with a 53-acre housing development on 37 acres of property south of the Tuttle Road Walmart along with an additional 15-acre tract to the east of the Walmart. The project would include more than 230 new houses built in four separate phases, with construction possible as early as next Spring.
Springfield hasn’t had a significant housing development built since the 1990s. It needed to take a risk to draw more residents and push back against a population decline in which people have been leaving Springfield for years, said Lance Oakes, a manager for DDC Management, the firm developing the property. He cited similar projects the firm developed in Riverside and Fairborn to show the Springfield development will pay off in the long run.
“They’re going to spend their money in other municipalities if these homes aren’t there,” Oakes said.
Springfield Twp. trustees and the Clark-Shawnee School District have raised concerns the proposed funding model for the project would slash the revenue they’d receive from residential property taxes for years. The city and DDC are developing a request for Tax Increment Financing to make the project financially viable.
The most likely proposal would seek two separate TIF requests. The city can approve a proposal with 75 percent of residential property taxes for new homes in the development going to the project and the remaining 25 percent going to the district for up to 10 years. Anything longer would need approval from Clark-Shawnee’s school board.
Springfield Twp. would be under a separate TIF proposal for 100-percent for 30 years.
Tim Foley, a Springfield Twp. trustee, said the township doesn’t have a voice on whether to approve the TIF, but could miss out on as much as $2 million in revenue over 30 years it would have otherwise received from the new property taxes. Staff from DDC Management have said the TIF is necessary for this project, but if it’s successful investors will be more willing to invest in future projects which would make future TIFs unnecessary.
But Foley said he’s concerned developers will seek similar financing deals in the future.
“One the TIF precedent has been set, where does it end,” he said.
A priority in Springfield
The need for new housing has long been a challenge in Springfield, but local officials have previously told the News-Sun the issue has become a bigger priority as companies like Silfex and Topre America Corp. begin to ramp up hiring.
Those companies have announced plans to add hundreds of new jobs to the area over the next several years. Without new homes available in Springfield, those workers are likely to move to neighboring counties with more options, Oakes said.
Oakes said he understands concerns from the school district and township about the project’s financing, but said the new development will pay off in the long-term by drawing more residents and making the area more attractive to retailers. If Springfield isn’t aggressive in building new homes to attract residents, he said the city could continue to lose potential residents to other communities in the region.
For the township, the challenge is that the township is potentially being asked to provide services to new residents but would not see much of the benefit from additional property taxes, Foley said.
The city and township reached an agreement in the late 1990s establishing agreements to cover land annexed by the city, Foley said.
If the new development included a new industrial or commercial development, the township would receive a portion of the city income tax paid by any new workers, Foley said. But the township does not receive any income taxes paid by residents in a new residential development.
The deal with the city also means the responsibility for road and right-of-way maintenance lies with the township, Foley said.
He said his concern is the deal could mean the township could be responsible for 30 years of road maintenance for the new development without receiving the new property tax revenue the township would typically receive from the new homes.
The developers have worked on a handful of other projects in recent years, including housing developments in Riverside and Fairborn. In Riverside, the company developed the Brantwood project, which included 86 single-family lots. Like Springfield, that project was also Riverside’s first significant new housing development in several years and was paid for partially through a TIF. Ryan Homes stepped in to build the houses for both projects, and would likely be the builder for the new homes in Springfield, officials from DDC Management have said.
The Brantwood project in Riverside is similar to Springfield’s proposed development in several ways, Oakes said. Because that city hadn’t seen a new development in years, a TIF was needed in that case as well to make the project more attractive to investors.
One key difference in that case, however, was the Mad River School District was not included in the Riverside project, while the Clark-Shawnee district will likely be included in the Springfield development. Oakes said that difference is largely due to the fact that DDC Management acquired the land for Brantwood several years ago, and said the cost to acquire and develop new housing projects has spiked since that time.
“It played a huge factor in keeping the end lot price to the consumer where it needed to be,” Oakes said of the TIF’s influence on making the Riverside project work.
The Brantwood project was Riverside’s first experience with TIF financing for a housing project, said Brock Taylor, director of planning and program management for that city. The TIF was also controversial in Riverside, in part because council members and residents weren’t familiar with the financing model, Taylor said.
Taylor said there was disagreement within the city as the TIF was being negotiated, but declined to elaborate further. But he also said the development has since spurred additional investment in the city. Homes in the subdivision were initially marketed in the $160,000 range, but the average sale price in the project’s first phase was closer to $225,000. Homes in the second phase averages in the $250,000 range. The new homes in Springfield will likely be marketed in the $190,000 range.
“Once people see it’s a viable project in your neighborhood, more people get interested and that’s what happened for us,” Taylor said.
New developments since Brantwood include the Miller Valentine Group’s Riverside Senior Lofts project, providing 48 new units of income-based senior housing for residents 55 and older on Harshman Road.
The city is looking for options for an additional housing development but it’s been difficult finding new available properties that would be suitable, Taylor said.
“We don’t have a whole lot of acreage and it’s hard for a developer to make that profitable,” he said.
DDC Management’s Waterford Landing project in Fairborn also led to more interest from other firms, said Michael Gebhart, assistant city manager in that city.
The Waterford Landing project started development in 2011 and is entering its final phase, Oakes said. When it’s finished at the end of next year, it will include more than 360 lots.
That project was not financed through a TIF, but Gebhart said other developers stepped in after seeing the Waterford project was successful. Inverness Homes is developing The Bluffs on Trebein, a project with homes starting in the $210,000 range.
Redwood apartments is also building about 100 new apartment homes in the city to cater to older resident and empty nesters with prices around $1,300 t0 $1,500 a month, Gebhart said. He attributed some of the interest in those projects to the success of Waterford Landing.
“All three of those projects are seeing very rapid sales,” Gebhart said.
The city has not had to use incentives like a TIF to attract residential development, but he said the city has some advantages like its proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Wright State University. Voters in Fairborn also recently approved a levy to build a new elementary and middle school, which also makes the city more attractive to potential developers, he said.
He said retail and other investments typically follow residential development.
“A lot of what retail is looking for is disposable income,” Gebhart said. “You have to attract those residents first to bring in retail.”
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