Hara Arena owners request rezoning to help with redevelopment efforts for tornado damaged property

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dayton Daily News reporters Chris Stewart and Josh Sweigart — joined at times by Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs — are traveling the length of the largest of the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes. It tore a path all the way across Montgomery County impacting thousands of homes and businesses. We are gathering people’s stories and investigating obstacles to recovery. This story is part of that coverage. Go here for the full project.


The Trotwood planning commission on Tuesday will hear a request to rezone the Hara Arena property from recreational to commercial use, which the facility’s owner says will pave the way to clean-up and redevelopment.

The storied event center was ripped to shreds by an EF4 tornado that tore across Montgomery County on Memorial Day this year. It had been closed since 2016.

RELATED: A legacy of memories at Hara Arena

Mike Heitz, a member of the Tax Redevelopment LLC group that owns the property, said the building “looks worse than what it is” and is salvageable if a buyer wants to use it.

“The frame of the building on 80 percent of it is good,” he said.

He said possible uses for the location include light industry, such as warehouse space.

SPECIAL PROJECT: Walking the Path of the Storm

“It’s a great opportunity to get some new space,” said Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald.

Tax Redevelopment LLC estimates Hara Arena suffered $7.5 million in damage in the storm, according to records submitted to the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office seeking a reduction in taxable property value this year.

This is the largest damage amount listed for any property in Montgomery County.

MAP: Interactive map shows thousands of tornado damaged properties in 3-county area

Heitz said the building wasn’t insured: “You can’t get insurance on an empty building.”

Tax Redevelopment LLC is among the owners of 1,269 Montgomery County properties to request a reduction in their taxable property values this year, according to the data.

Those property owners estimate the storms did a total of $130 million in damage.

TORNADO SURVIVORS: Tell us what you need on the path to recovery

Inspectors from the auditor’s office are now physically visiting those properties and will mail property owners new values around the end of the year. Those values will impact their 2019 taxes, payable in 2020.

The auditor’s office will also inspect tornado-damaged properties whose owners didn’t apply for reductions by the Oct. 1 deadline, but won’t be able to adjust their values until the 2020 tax year, payable in 2021.

It’s unclear at this point what impact the tornadoes will have on the tax rolls, according to auditor’s office spokesman Mike Brill. Tax revenue for some jurisdictions will also change based on levies on the November ballot.

RELATED: Tornado recovery resource guide

Hara Arena’s land and property together were valued at $1.2 million, though Heitz said the auditor’s office agreed to cut the value in half because of storm damage.

Heitz said they are committed to redeveloping the property.

“Once the zoning is approved, we’ll start marketing the building and getting it cleaned up and everything,” he said.

LISTEN: New podcast takes listeners on the path of the Memorial Day tornadoes

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