Friday, July 25, 2003

Tax breaks OK'd for complex


Butler County officials begin creating package

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Despite opposition from West Chester Township officials, Butler County commissioners decided Thursday to begin creating a tax-break package for the developer of Market Square, a planned retail-office complex that will feature a Wal-Mart Superstore.

Earlier this year, West Chester officials told the developer, Neyer Properties Inc. of Evendale, that they weren't interested in creating a tax-increment financing district for the 75 acres that the developer owns at the northwest corner of Interstate 75 and Cincinnati-Dayton Road in West Chester. Tax-increment financing, or a TIF, is a development tool that uses property taxes generated by a development to pay for infrastructure improvements.

But fears that the county, after creating its own TIF, would divert some of the revenue from it to the proposed I-75 interchange in Liberty Township caused trustees this week to announce their intention to plan their own TIF district.

West Chester Township Administrator Dave Gully apologized to commissioners Thursday for insulting remarks some officials made about them at Tuesday's township trustees meeting. He asked them to postpone voting on the TIF and to meet early next week with township officials and Neyer Properties to try to iron out their differences and resolve concerns.

But commissioners decided to approve a resolution announcing their intention to create a TIF for Neyer Properties. The agreement will be negotiated and probably won't receive final approval for two months.

Butler County Commissioner Mike Foxsaid it was important to move forward with the tax-increment financing process so that the project's momentum would not be disrupted.

He said he doesn't want to risk having the county lose this development.

"By keeping more retail sales in the county, we take pressure off the property taxpayers. It's important to diversify the tax base," Fox said.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter, which would replace the existing Wal-Mart store on Tylersville Road, would result in 300 new jobs and would generate about $600,000 a year in sales tax revenue for the county, said Thomas Wilson, development manager for Neyer Properties.

Commissioners agreed to meet with the trustees and Neyer Properties and discuss concerns. Fox said commissioners' action Thursday doesn't commit the county to a TIF.

The county could still step aside and allow West Chester to create the TIF for the project, he said.

"I just want to see the project done," Fox said.

The township still controls zoning and planning issues for the development.

Fox said the county has no intention of diverting the TIF revenue from West Chester.

Jennifer Edwards contributed to this story. E-mail skemme@enquirer.com.




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