12,000 residents, $1.5B private investment expected at Union Village

Tax sharing, community authority proposed at Warren County development

Pieces of a puzzle expected to result in development of a 1,400-acre multi-generational community, with 12,000 residents anchored by a 109-acre sports complex and attracting $1.5 billion in private investment, are falling into place in Warren County.

Earlier this month, the Turtlecreek Twp. trustees notified the Lebanon City Schools, Warren County and the Warren County Career Center of plans to hold a public meeting on April 25 expected to end in a decision to create a tax incremental financing agreement to set aside millions of dollars in property taxes to help pay for construction and maintenance of roads and other infrastructure in the Union Village development.

The property is owned by Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices and includes its main retirement campus off Ohio 741, south of Springboro and west of Lebanon.

Last week, a lawyer for Otterbein submitted plans setting up a community authority to oversee the community and charge property owners and users for development and maintenance.

The county commissioners agreed on Tuesday to hold the March 21 hearing on setting up the authority and on Thursday the county's regional planning committee recommended conditional approval of the sports complex by the commissioners.

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The TIF agreements and approvals are pieces of the puzzle needed for the development to come to fruition.

“If all of this is completed in a timely manner, construction (at least in the form of the work required for the infrastructure (phase one roads, water, sewer, electric, gas, etc.) could begin early next year,” Gary Horning, vice president for marketing and communications at Otterbein, said in an email last week.

12,330 residents

The petition for creation of the authority provided additional details about Union Village.

Development “as one functionally interrelated community” is to take place on 1,230 acres of the 1,430 owned there by Otterbein and grow to 12,330 residents over 35 to 50 years.

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Total employment is projected to reach 3,400, including 2,855 permanent jobs, and about 350 construction jobs.

In addition to the public investment, the project is expected to attract $1.5 billion in aggregation private investment, including $106 million for commercial development.

By developing residential neighborhoods and town centers on the land around the retirement campus, developers expect to create a “multi-generational, neo-traditional or new urbanism community.”

Next year, 50 residences are to be developed. After that, 100 a year are to be added, culminating in 3,500 homes and 1,000 apartments or condominiums.

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Restaurants, cafes, retail shops and markets are to be built throughout the development.

Bigger businesses, including “big box” stores, grocery stores, automotive services are to developed on on south side of property on Ohio 63, east of the Miami Valley Gaming Racino and two state prisons.

Up to 1 million square feet of commercial development is envisioned, along with a “small college with student housing” a cultural arts center, YMCA, churches and “a new school.”

The plan calls for 20 percent of the land to be set aside for “civic spaces”: parks, trails, playgrounds and squares, as well as the sports complex. These areas would be open to the public, but visitors would be subject to “reasonable fees for the use.”

On March 21, the county commissioners are to appoint four board members, including one local government representative, to the authority board.

The tax sharing agreement and community authority petition are products of more than two years of discussions between officials and lawyers for Otterbein, the Union Village Development Company and the township trustees.

“Turtlecreek Twp. has worked closely with Union Village Development Company to prepare the petition and the related development documents, so this petition is being filed by the developer with such local support,” lawyer Emmett Kelly said in a letter attached to the authority petition.

Turtlecreek Trustee Jonathan Sams said the tax sharing and community authority had been "developed and agreed upon" since the Union Village plan, to include 4,500 homes and more than $100 million in commercial development was approved in October 2014.

“Those are now in the legislative process of approval,” Sams, who also serves as lawyer for the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said after the sports complex was recommended for approval last week.

The Lebanon City Schools have already agreed to accept payments in lieu of taxes. The vocational district is subject to terms agreed upon by the local district, according to Peg Allen, communications director for the Warren County Career Center.

By establishing 22 special districts, 50 percent of the property tax on each phase of the residential development would be set aside for the development, rather than going toward the schools or other county expenses.

Forgiveness of half the property tax for the homes and all the property tax on commercial developments would continue for 30 years.

Still in play is approval of a lodging tax expected to cover much of the construction costs on the $10 million Warren County Sports Park at Union Village.

Also still undetermined is who will own the facility, east of Interstate 75 on the northwestern edge of Union Village.

But establishment of the special tax districts and community authority would be big steps forward for the project.

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Ottterbein has agreed to donate land at Union Village for the sports complex, once the tax sharing has been agreed upon.

Plans for the facility include 12 multi-use fields, four baseball diamonds, two championship multi-sport fields, two championship baseball fields and two concession stand and restroom facilities.

The park is planned on land off Greentree Road and Ohio 741, on either side of Turtlecreek Twp. Park and across Ohio 741 from Warren County’s Armco Park.

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“We are nearing a final agreement with the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau and are looking forward to consummating that agreement pretty soon,” Horning added.

For the development, Otterbein, a non-profit, has created the Union Village Development Company, a for-profit corporation created on May 13, 2015 and authorized to have up to 1,000 shares of common stock “outstanding”, according to state records.

“Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices is in the ministry of providing a wide array of heath care choices to seniors throughout the state of Ohio,” Horning said. “We are not in the business of land development. Therefore, we are in the process of creating the Union Village Development Company - ultimately a company run by officers and an independent board of directors who will buy land from Otterbein and work with builders and other developers to create Union Village.”

If all the puzzle pieces fall into place, Union Village is expected to begin to take shape “early next year,” across from Marble Hall, the original building on Otterbein’s sprawling retirement campus on Ohio 741.

The first phase is to be a “town center,” including residential and commercial development.

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