Sports complex, Union Village plans stalled

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Complex Plan

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Both are waiting for Warren County and Turtlecreek Twp. to reach an agreement on special tax districts.

The construction of a $10 million sports complex on 88 acres outside Lebanon hinges on more than an increase in Warren County’s lodging tax.

The county Board of Commissioners has postponed plans to approve the 1 percent tax hike, earmarked to finance construction of the complex, until two special taxing entities are created to help offset the cost of development of the 1,400-acre Union Village.

The owners of the land for the complex, Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices, have agreed to donate it once an agreement has been reached with the county and Turtlecreek Twp. on a tax incremental financing (TIF) district and community authority to offset the costs of developing Union Village.

“The financing structure is crucial to launching the development and for paving the way for the sports complex. In our agreement with WCCVB (Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau) and the Warren County Commissioners, the gift of over 80 acres of land is subject to our being able to commence the development,” Gary Horning, vice president of marketing and communications at Otterbein, said in an email.

Lodging tax approval delayed

Last week, the commissioners tabled plans to approve the tax hike, while the parties continued to negotiate the terms of the TIF, which would divert property taxes from the improvements, and the authority, which would tax businesses and residents moving into Union Village.

“We’re still working through the figures,” said Jonathan Sams, a Turtlecreek Twp. Trustee and member of the board of the WCCVB, which would develop the sports complex.

“We are willing to participate. But we have an entire township to look after,” Sams, the trustee, said.

So in exchange for diversion of property taxes that would otherwise help fund township expenses, Sams and the trustees want a piece of revenues collected through the authority.

The tax or fees charged by the authority increase costs for homeowners and businesses moving into Union Village, potentially slowing its development.

Tentatively 100 percent of commercial development would be diverted through the TIF, while current discussions include diverting about 50 percent of property taxes on residential improvements, Sams said.

Officials declined to say how much Otterbein planned to spend on the first phase of development of about 250 acres across from its retirement campus on Ohio 741, west of Lebanon. Earlier this year, Otterbein officials indicated $39 million in investment.

Both projects on hold

Otterbein said it had provided financial data sought by the township, but Sams said the trustees were still awaiting numbers needed to discuss the terms and make a decision.

“Once we have the figures in hand, we can take the next step,” Sams said.

Sams also indicated the sports complex project could continue without the Otterbein donation, perhaps through purchase of the proposed site.

WCCVB officials have looked at other locations, including land on Ohio 63 owned by the city of Lebanon, as well as corporate sponsorships offsetting costs.

Otterbein officials indicated no plans to sell the proposed site and said they hoped to work out the agreement with the county and township.

“We are very excited about the sports complex and feel it will be a great asset to the Union Village development, Otterbein, Warren County and Turtlecreek Township,” Horning said.

Complex deal permits 4,500-home development

Otterbein agreed to provide the land for the sports complex as part of a deal worked out with the county commissioners resulting in approval of the 4,500 home, new-urbanist plan. The Union Village plan also includes a community arts center, retail and commercial development, a four-year college campus, church and health care facilities.

For eight months, officials and lawyers representing Otterbein, the county and township have been negotiating how much of the property taxes and authority fees will be diverted to help pay for the development’s roads and other infrastructure and offset additional public expenses.

Last week, county and Otterbein officials indicated they were awaiting approval by the township trustees.

“The work is complex and the township is working diligently to understand all of the ramifications before we finalize an agreement,” Horning said.

While focused on ensuring the township's future costs are covered, Sams said the complex was essential to the success of a long-term plan to manage growth in the township, some of the last vacant land along I-75 left between Cincinnati and Dayton.

The complex is expected to boost county tourism through attraction of sports events drawing people who would also visit area attractions and eat in local restaurants, as well as lodge in the hotels and bed and breakfasts that would assess the added 1 percent tax.

Despite local opposition, the county commissioners seemed ready to approve the tax hike earmarked to pay off debt from the sports complex construction. The new state budget enabled the added tax without a referendum.

"You can do it at any time," Phil Smith, executive director of the WCCVB, said during a meeting with the commissioners earlier this month.

Last week, plans to schedule a final discussion and vote were shelved, pending approval of the terms of the TIF and authority.

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