Thursday, February 6, 2003

Developers, township find common bond

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DEERFIELD TWP. - Trustees of this booming Warren County area are considering using special assessment financing as a way to fund future developments.

The consideration came after developers for two separate projects - Arbor Square, including a new Kroger, and Fleckenstein Farm, a new housing development on Mason-Montgomery Road - asked the township for the assessment so they could fund construction of infrastructure needed for the projects.

The trustees discussed special assessment financing - a funding mechanism under which bonds are sold to raise money for infrastructure, such as new roads - at length Tuesday night before outlining some initial policy ideas.

A resolution formalizing the policy, as well as more discussion with the developers, is expected at the trustees' next meeting Feb. 18.

"All this is, is creative financing by the developer," Trustee Randy Kuvin said.

This is the first time the township has considered special assessment financing, township Administrator Greg Horwedel said.

The township will borrow short-term notes to start the construction, then once the project is complete and the final bill is in, will go for long-term bond financing, he said. That long-term bond, which includes all the costs related to the assessment, is paid back by the property owners. The township stays "fiscally neutral," Horwedel said.

If the property owners fail to pay, the bondholder - not the township - is "on the hook," Trustee Bill Morand said.

"We're not putting taxpayers' money at risk," he said.

The assessment process, including a public hearing, would take at least 60 days before approval is granted.

Of top concern, trustees said, was making sure the township would not have to pay any costs associated with the assessment, protecting the general fund, and having special revenue bonds pay for the project in the long term.

A handful of residents raised concerns about the number of financial incentives Deerfield Township was handing out to developers.

"I'm afraid we've created a monster here," said Lee Speidel, a 36-year resident. "... I don't see why the Deerfield Township treasury has to become the bank for every development."

In the event the policy is implemented, developer Cincinnati United Contractors is getting property owners to sign a petition saying they want the financing for Arbor Square, a total of 84 acres at Mason-Montgomery and Socialville-Foster roads.

The financing would pay for the road construction needed in the area.

A 70,000-square-foot Kroger store is the anchor tenant; plans also show related developments including a Gold Star Chili, McDonald's, Wendy's and a Peoples Community Bank.

The township is working on finalizing tax-increment funding for that project, Horwedel said. It will need trustees' approval.


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