In order to move forward with a proposed Lighting District for retail area near Miller Lane, Butler Township needs 32 property owners in this area to sign a petition that states that they agree to pay the electricity and maintenance costs.
The deadline for the petitions to be turned in is March 27, according to Kim Lapensee, township administrator.
As of March 17, the township had received 11 petitions out of the 62 properties in the proposed district.
The proposed Lighting District would encompass Miller Lane, Towne Center Drive, York Plaza and York Center Drives.
“We sent out petitions to all the property owners in the district along with a map and how much the electric would cost annually,” Lapensee said. “We also sent out letters to all of the business owners who may not necessarily own the land underneath the building outlining what the costs would be and how the costs would be assessed.”
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If the township gets the 32 property owners to sign and turn in the petitions, then the township would be allowed to assess those property owners for electricity on an annual basis. The property owners would split paying approximately $26,000 annually.
“About $26,000 annually spread out over all the properties based on road frontage,” Lapensee said.
The idea of the district was brought up last year after some of the businesses in the proposed Light District area experienced some break-ins or thefts.
“It was originally requested by Singer Properties a few years ago, and we had put it in our capital budget for 2015 under the premise that the business community would pay for the electricity and maintenance,” Lapensee said.
Alex Kolodesh, co-owner of Singer Properties and Kolodesh Development, said he wants the lighting district, but feels the township should pay for the maintenance of the lights with taxes raised from the Joint Economic Development Zones that township residents approved at the ballot in 2013.
JEDZ contracts are created when two or more municipal corporations agree to share in the costs of improvement for a designated area and for the purpose of facilitating new or expanded growth for commercial or economic development, according to the Ohio Revised Code.
“That is a recognized purpose of JEDZ monies and these funds come from a special tax assessed on the very same property owners who would be the prime beneficiaries of the new lighting,” Kolodesh said. He added that he gave Lapensee signed petitions for eight parcels the Singer Properties and its affiliated entities own in the proposed district.
Ray Frick, owner of Fricker’s at 6834 Miller Lane, said he agrees that there needs to be more lighting but doesn’t plan on signing the petition for the proposed district.
“It’s an additional cost that isn’t necessary because the funds were there initially through the JEDZ,” Frick said. He added that he believes the trustees are not using revenue generated by the JEDZ correctly and are unnecessarily creating the need for the additional lighting fees.
“I’m against any additional taxes because we’re already paying into a fund that was supposed to cover those costs (associated with the proposed district) in the beginning,” Frick said.
Using JEDZ money for lighting and maintenance is not an option, according to Lapensee.
“We can use the JEDZ money for that purpose, but we said all along with the campaign for the JEDZ that we would use it to pay for additional police officers and that is exactly what we are doing,” Lapensee said. “We have eight other lighting districts in neighborhoods. There is one on York Commons and Commerce Center and another one on North Dixie. All of those people who are adjacent pay for their lighting and maintenance of the poles. It would be a huge injustice to those individuals if we made them pay but not the folks on Miller Lane.”
The township is expected to spend approximately $287,000 for the light fixtures and poles. “We have asked Miami Valley Lighting to give us a revised price using LED lights which will increase the upfront costs but lower the electricity/maintenance costs for the businesses,” Lapensee said.
The proposed district was a topic of discussion for residents living on Reinwood Drive who spoke at the trustees’ Feb. 23 workshop session.
The township officials had considered including Reinwood Drive residents in the Lighting District, but decided to elimate them from the map after receiving complaints from homeowners. Most of the homeowners told the trustees that they couldn’t afford to pay the proposed assessments.