Tax abatement requested for some of last undeveloped land in I-75 corridor

Warren County has been asked to create a zone around 1,300 acres east of Interstate 75 where property taxes could be forgiven on future commercial or industrial development.

The land, some of the last large, undeveloped parcels along the I-75 corridor between Cincinnati and Dayton, is located near the Miami Valley Gaming & Racing racino and Park North Commerce Park, where Amazon and other businesses have already set up large distribution centers east of the interchange at Ohio 63 in Turtlecreek Twp.

More than 1,100 acres is undeveloped prison land the county and development interests want the state to sell. About 162 acres on Ohio 741 is owned by Margaret White, according to county property records.

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Up to 75 percent of property taxes on the development could be forgiven for up to 15 years, if Warren County commissioners approve the community reinvestment area today requested by the Turtlecreek Twp. trustees.

“It’s a tool we can use. We don’t have to use it, but we can use it,” said Turtlecreek Twp. Trustee Jon Sams.

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Sams said the 75-percent and 15-year limits were set up after discussions with Lebanon City Schools officials.

“Based upon our initial discussion of the proposed Community Reinvestment Area, the Lebanon City School District is supportive of creating an area to attract and maintain commercial and industrial development within the school district,” Treasurer Eric Sotzing said in a Sept. 24 letter to Turtlecreek Twp. Administrator Tammy Boggs.

If the commissioners approve the zone, an application would be made to the State for approval, said Warren County Economic Development Director Matthew Schnipke.

Currently the land is deriving little if any property tax, since the state owns the bulk and the other tracts are being taxed on the current agricultural use value, rather than its “highest and best potential use,” according to Ohio tax law.

Sams and Schnipke said the incentive would be used “on a project-by-project basis.”

Sams said the district could be used in combination with a Joint Economic Development District, through which income tax could be collected by the township, in cases of “highly competitive” negotiations with companies considering Warren County, among other places, to do business and create new jobs.

While taxes would be forgiven during the abatement period, it would be paid to schools and other taxing districts afterward, Sams pointed out.

The land in the proposed area also runs south of the Otterbein-Union Village 1,400-acre development, where a new community authority and tax-incremental financing district have been set up to fund operation and maintenance, while setting aside property taxes for roads and other infrastructure.

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The township already has a community investment area at Interstate 71 and Ohio 123, east of Lebanon. The trustees lack authority to create the tax-abatement zones without working through the county commissioners.

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“We use these tools to best benefit the population that we have,” Sams said.

“We won’t unless it makes sense,” he said. “It has to make economic sense to do it.”

The owners of the private land, along Ohio 741, within the proposed area could not be reached for comment.

“They’ve had their property up for sale for a while,” Sams said, adding the land was within the area the township planned for economic development district.

While willing to use tax abatements to attract businesses, “we still need a tax base,” Sams said.

He pointed to the cooperative relationship with the city of Monroe and suggested the local governments would work together in developing the 1,300 acres.

Sams said the school district also favored plans to attract commercial or industrial development “because it’s not residential,” resulting in more students in the district, often without sufficient tax added to cover the costs.

Once the abatement run out, “it’s property tax they wouldn’t have gotten if business hasn’t come,” Sams said.

Negotiations continue with the state on sale of the 1,100-plus acres adjacent to the two prisons on Ohio 63.

State law sets a deadline for sale by the end of September 2019, according to Sams, also a lawyer.

“It’s groundwork making this (community reinvestment area) happen,” he said. “At this point, it is not imminent.”

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