BAINBRIDGE — Township Trustees are moving closer to adopting a tax increment financing district to encourage economic development in areas zoned for mixed use including the former Geauga Lake Park lands, Trustee Jeff Markley said.
It involves using property tax revenues with the intent to create and promote economic development, he said.
TIFs can be established by cities, villages, townships and counties under Ohio law and used in a number of ways such as diverting property tax revenues in a special fund for specific uses.
Geauga County Auditor Chuck Walder said TIF funds could be used to pay for building infrastructure, such as utility lines or roads, to a specific area to attract or assist developers.
It would ultimately improve the existing condition of property, Mr. Markley said, and in the future increase the overall value of the land. The township could collect as much as 75 percent of the difference in the improved value, he said.
According to state law, Trustee Lorrie Benza explained that once tax money goes into a TIF, trustees determine the use of the funds.
It is paid at the same time and generally in the same manner as real property taxes, Mr. Markley said. The township normally gets somewhat less than 20 percent of the property taxes collected, he noted, compared to as much as 75 percent with a TIF district.
It could be used for the township’s entire mixed-use district which includes the former Geauga Lake Park area, the Marketplace at Four Corners and the North Marketplace shopping centers and along Aurora Road (Route 43).
The goal is to encourage economic development and redevelopment in the district by collecting enough revenue to pay for various improvements. The TIF could be in place from 10 to 30 years for the township to collect the increased share of the property taxes, trustees said.
Collection of the taxes begins one year after the changes are in place. No taxing authority loses money, according to Mr. Markley, as they continue to receive what they were collecting on the original value of the property before the improvements were made until the TIF expires, Mr. Markley said.
The TIF revenues are generally used for roads, sidewalks, sewers, public utilities, demolition, parks and even land acquisition.
In the short term, Mr. Markley said, the Ohio Department of Transportation is requiring a pedestrian crosswalk and signalization on Aurora Road at the new Discount Tire store. It would allow people to cross to the North Marketplace Shopping Center. Development of Discount Tire site is required to modify the signals and produce the crosswalk.
Establishment of the TIF is an opportunity for the township to assist with the costs, and promote continued economic development, Mr. Markley said.
With the former Geauga Lake Park area, the township could assist in providing public improvements with the TIF funds, he said, with Bainbridge deciding on the projects.
In planning a TIF district, the trustees will be working with legal counsel, as well as with Geauga County agencies, possibly even outside consultants, on the details, he said.
Trustees learned about the TIF through the Ohio Township Association in several meetings at winter conferences, he said. Many cities, villages and townships in the state have formed TIFs.
“Hopefully, it is another way to stimulate activity at the former Geauga Lake site,” Mr. Markley said. Money from the TIF funding could be used to provide public lake access to Geauga Lake as part of a master development for such things as board walks, boat access, parks and playgrounds for public use, he said. “The TIF money could go to pay for some or all of the improvements. It is using property tax dollars from the new development to create public amenities in the area of new development.”
The township has been compiling information on the parcels and is prepared to notify the required taxing authorities affected by the creation of the TIF. The entities most concerned are the schools, he added. It doesn’t change their income, but they don’t get an increase in revenue with new development right away. Letters will be sent to the Kenston Local School District and the Auburn Career Center that the TIF is being established.
The schools actually want to see more development because it provides more money for them, he added. Industrial and commercial businesses are always positive as it produces revenue without the additional students that can cost the district.
“We have talked about a TIF for several years,” Mr. Markley said. “We have heard it explained, but we never found the opportunity time to take advantage of it.”
Discount Tire has asked if the township can help with the infrastructure, he said of ODOT’s requirements for a crosswalk on Aurora Road and traffic signal modifications.
“We haven’t agreed to that yet,” Mr. Markley said. “All we are doing is working to establish the TIF district by getting the parcels together. The zoning department is compiling a map to identify the parcels, he said.
“Ultimately, it is our hope the TIF will spur economic development and redevelopment and increase the value of the area in the TIF district. That’s the entire reason for doing it,” Mr. Markley said.