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Lebanon moves forward with $18M development deal

Lebanon City Council has moved forward with plans to forgive property taxes on a $18 million retail and housing redevelopment that is expected to extend the city’s downtown.

During a recent work session, council expressed support for the 65-acre development at 511 N. Broadway just north of downtown.

“We’re trying to make it downtown,” developer Jim Cohen said during the meeting on Monday at Lebanon City Hall.

Property taxes on Cohen’s project, to include 18 town homes, 86 apartments, a brewpub and two restaurants, are to be forgiven for 15 years.

RELATED: Liberty Twp. restaurant plans 2nd location in Lebanon

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Cohen is to begin construction within a year of closing, but proposed quicker action on the brewpub and restaurants.

Businesses committing to the project are Cozy’s Café & Pub in Liberty Twp., Butler County, and Two Cities Pizza in Mason, Warren County, as well as the Casual Pint, a Knoxville-based chain with locations in Mason, Loveland and the Oakley neighborhood of Cincinnati.

“There is a good chance the retailers will want to get in sooner,” Cohen said. “They’re excited. I’d like to strike while the iron is hot.”

RELATED: 2 restaurants, brewpub sign letters of intent to move into proposed Lebanon development

Also, Lebanon would:

- sell city land to Cohen’s company for $100 (with a clause returning it to the city if the project fails)

- cap building permit fees at $10,000

- relocate existing overhead utilities to underground along frontage

- extend pedestrian-friendly streetscape to the development

- brick sidewalks, decorative lighting, trash receptacles, street trees

- “make best efforts” to negotiate agreement with school district for public park space in front of Berry School

- pursue grants to connect development with downtown, Lebanon–Countryside YMCA Trail on protected bike path

The city’s streetscape, road and park commitment would total $1 million.

Cohen’s company also would:

- construct no more than 125 residential units

- construct 12,000-15,000 square feet of commercial space

- conform to renderings, approved by the city, for site design, building materials, and building construction

- pay $146,000 in transportation, park impact fees

- offset loss of bus garage parking as requested by school

- reach agreement with Warren County Port Authority for financing

- negotiate a compensation agreement to make up for the forgiven tax with Lebanon City Schools

RELATED: Warren County expected to sell fairground tract for fire station

Despite the tax abatement, the development would still bring in $241,850 in annual property taxes, $40,211 to the city, according to the city’s economic analysis.

In addition, the city projects $65,000 in annual income tax and $1.1 million in “annual total spending power” due to the development.

Cohen said he agreed with Mayor Amy Brewer that the community, including residents on nearby Oakwood Avenue, need to be involved in discussions leading to final design.

“Neighbors are critically important,” Cohen said. “We want the community to support the project.”

The only change to the plan proposed by Brunka and the developer came after architect Stephen Starkey queried the council on how much non-masonry material would be used on the buildings. They agreed on a 25-percent maximum after City Manager Scott Brunka said this complied with the city’s zoning code.

RELATED: $25 million in development proposed along stretch of Lebanon main drag

In addition to agreements with the school district on the tax abatement, the project also hinges on the district getting additional parking to compensate for an area on school property to be included in the development, Brunka said.

The plan also calls for on-street parking, wider sidewalks and a narrowing of the road to two lanes.

The community investment area also needs state approval.

With Councilman Doug Shope absent, the council agreed to put the development agreement and community investment area changes on upcoming meeting agendas leading to final votes.

Final votes on the project are expected in December.

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