For the second time, Grove City Council delayed voting on an economic development agreement with a pair of the city's neighbors that some are calling a "tax grab."
On Monday, Sept. 17, council unanimously agreed to postpone an agreement to create and enter into a Joint Economic Development District with Scioto Township and the Village of Commercial Point. The vote is now scheduled to take place Nov. 18.
Under a JEDD agreement, a city can share its income tax rate with a township, which without such an agreement does not have the authority to impose an income tax under state law, and share the revenue.
In this case, Grove would receive 10 percent of the income, or about $100,000 annually.
The township and the village have already voted in favor of creating the JEDD.
"We look forward into entering into a partnership with the township," said Mike Hess, an attorney representing the village. "We'd like to develop a relationship with the city ... (and) look forward to being a partner with you."
Don Brosius, an attorney representing the township, said it needs Grove City's development capabilities.
"Grove City has development capabilities, in terms of expertise, that aren't possessed by the township or the village," Brosius said. "Your income tax rate is greater than we can obtain."
The proposed JEDD would be made up of more than an acre at the northwest portion of of state Route 104 and Southern Street, within Scioto Township; half an acre of land within Commercial Point near Hiner Road, Strawser Street, Mattox Court and McCord Road; and 1,319 acres of land owned by the state in Scioto Township, near state Route 762 and where two state prisons are located.
If it goes into effect, the JEDD would impose Grove City's 2 percent income tax on the employees of Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction: the Pickaway Correctional Institution, 11781 state Route 762, and the Correctional Reception Center, 11271 state Route 762, who currently don't pay a local income tax.
"It directly harms approximately 700 hard-working state employees," Stephen Young, an attorney representing the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, told council Monday.
Young called the JEDD a "tax grab without economic development" that wouldn't create jobs and said it's only being done to generate revenue, adding that the proposed contract does not comply with state law.
Young also said it is inaccurate to say the employee use township roads they don't pay for to get to work.
"We do not use township roads," he said. "Access is through state roads for which we do pay taxes."
Grove City resident Allen West, an employee at Corrections Reception Center, asked what could be developed on the land when most of the district is used for the prisons.
"You're going to rob us," he said.
Councilman Steve Bennett said the JEDD required further review by council given its magnitude.
Councilman Jeff Davis said he has heard a number of points from opponents about why this JEDD is not legally sound.
"I've heard nothing to rebut that," he said.
Brosius said state allows a JEDD to be used to preserve jobs.
"There is no legal requirement for the creation of jobs," he said. "My point is the statute specifically contemplates what is being done here."
Council President Ted Berry said he had a problem with the JEDD because of its lack of community support in the impacted areas.
"It doesn't sound like you're doing the groundwork with your own community," he said "Right now, I don't see value in the partnership."
Council members also took issue with the fact that Brosius presented some changes to the language of the agreement and Hess said the village was seeking to increase its share of the revenue by an additional 1 to 1.5 percent.
"At this point, our administration brought us something they thought was complete," said Councilwoman Melissa Albright.