Thursday, January 23, 2003

Butler Co. eyes retail center tax deal

TIF plan would help finance road projects, repairs

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LIBERTY TWP. - Butler County leaders are poised to enter into a tax increment financing (TIF) agreement with two developers of a major retail center on the northwest corner of the Michael A. Fox Highway and Interstate 75.

The TIF would finance $6.8 million over 20 years for additional turn lanes outside a project off Cincinnati-Dayton Road and a road that will loop through the development, connecting to Lakota Lane.

It would pay for other infrastructure improvements on and near the 106-acre site that eventually could hold a movie theater, Butler County Commissioner Mike Fox said.

Tax increment financing is a development tool that uses property tax revenues to help pay for infrastructure projects.

"This is a balancing act," Mr. Fox said. "The developers are not getting a free ride. We have all these things in motion, and there are all these unknowns. At one level, we are trying to jumpstart the development and creation of jobs. But we are kind of in a box. We also have to make improvements to Cincinnati-Dayton Road."

Under the agreement, the developers, Bob Hutsenpiller and Neyer Properties Inc. of Evendale, will support becoming part of a proposed joint economic development district (JEDD) between Liberty Township and Mason and Liberty and Hamilton as well as a future tax assessment district in Liberty along Cincinnati-Dayton Road.

Funds from those initiatives will pay for even more road improvements, Mr. Fox said.

If a movie theater rises on the parcel, Neyer officials have agreed to impose a theater tax, similar to what is routinely charged in municipalities such as Springdale. That tax would generate about $200,000 to $300,000 a year, according to Mr. Fox. Only municipalities, not townships and counties, can impose such a tax, he added.

Officials with National Amusements Inc., which operates Greater Cincinnati's dominant movie theater chain, Showcase Cinemas, have said they are looking to build a theater in either West Chester or Liberty townships.

The commercial development is anticipated to generate $500,000 annually in income taxes, Mr. Fox wrote Liberty Township trustees Tuesday in a letter asking for their support.

So far, however, no tenants have been announced at the site other than a BP gas station. Dan Neyer, president of Neyer Properties, said Wednesday that he hopes to announce a couple of major tenants in the next 60 days.

West Chester Lawn & Garden will be moved back a few hundred yards to a new, 4-acre spot by September. Two turn lanes on Cincinnati-Dayton Road into the development and west to Yankee Road will be built in 2004.

The trustees gave the deal their blessings, but approval is up to the Butler County Commission.

"I have no problems with this, knowing who the developers are," Trustee Bob Shelley said.

Liberty's population grew 147 percent in the last decade and now stands at 25,000. Butler and Liberty officials are eager to attract more businesses to the township to help pay for road improvements and services such as police and fire protection.

The developers are expected to make a presentation Monday before the Butler County Commission, who could vote on the proposal that day.


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