Licking County News

Pataskala plans to boost economic development

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Pataskala has several changes in store for 2014, including a new mayor and two new City Council members and a slate of potential economic-development projects.

New Mayor Mike Compton, who defeated Steve Butcher in the November election, said the city first needs to hire an interim administrator.

"Our first point of order is to get an interim city administrator and as soon as that subject is closed, we can start the charter review commission," Compton said.

Pataskala City Council declined in October to renew City Administrator Timothy Boland's contract, which expired Dec. 31.

The city received 59 applications for the interim position, which could last 16 to 18 months, said City Council President Dan Hayes, who chairs the ad hoc committee in charge of the search.

City Council is interested in forming a charter review commission to determine whether the city administrator should remain in charge of daily operations or if the mayor should assume more control.

Compton said he will have to form the charter review commission this year and he will appoint an interim city administrator after receiving City Council's approval of the candidate.

 

More personnel plans for 2014

City Council also is expected this year to review its engineering contract and might solicit information from candidates interested in the city attorney's position.

City Council on Dec. 16 voted unanimously to extend the current contract with Stantec Engineering for up to six months in 2014.

Compton said having a part-time, contracted engineer might not make sense when the city has projects running full time.

"One of my goals is I'd love to see us get a city engineer," Compton said. "At this point I think we've grown enough and have enough projects -- roads and drainage -- that all need addressed. I have nothing against engineering firm we're using now. John (Gross of Stantec Engineering) is a great guy, but he can only do so much when he's literally in the city two days a week."

City Councilman Bernard Brush, who was defeated in his November re-election bid, on Dec. 16 requested the city review its contract with City Attorney Rufus Hurst.

Brush said it could be time to accept bids for the contract, which Compton said might be a good idea.

The makeup of City Council also will change in 2014.

Bryan Lenzo was re-elected to one of the three at-large City Council seats, but Brush was defeated and Merissa McKinstry did not run for re-election.

November election winners Todd Barstow and Timothy Hickin join City Council this month.

In addition, Compton's Ward 2 City Council seat will have to be filled because he was elected mayor.

 

Development projects

Pataskala is expected to get an economic boost in 2014 from several projects already planned and many that have yet to be announced.

Planning Director Eric Fischer said the north and southeast corners of Summit Road and Broad Street are expected to be redeveloped in 2014, along with 26.8 acres on Main Street south of Mill Street.

Both are expected to bring commercial businesses and the Main Street project will bring residential development as well, he said.

Fischer said the city started marketing its Job-Ready Site in 2013, which could come to fruition in 2014.

"There are a lot of developers interested," he said.

Fischer said he could not name any potential projects at this point.

The JRS contains 300 acres, which is part of the 500-acre Pataskala Corporate Park south of Broad Street.

The park is undeveloped but now has utilities and Etna Parkway, a $6 million road built in 2011, to connect Broad Street and U.S. Route 40.

The JRS land was acquired by Licking County using a $3.4 million JRS grant from the Ohio Department of Development, which was designed to open more commercial and industrial sites in the state.

The Licking County commissioners in 2013 hired Cassidy Turley, a commercial real-estate company, to market the JRS.

According to the Cassidy Turley's agreement with county commissioners, the land will be priced at $36,812.48 per acre and Cassidy Turley will receive 6 percent of the total purchase price if land is sold.

Boland said the site also is in the process of being recognized as an American Electric Power internationally certified site, which would make it one of only two in Ohio and a handful nationally.

In his last administrative report to City Council, Boland said, "The city has successfully completed the first two phases of the AEP site certification process and has been invited to proceed to phase 3 of this process. Phase 3 is the final step in this process and once completed will result in international certification of the entire corporate park through the AEP system. ... Ultimately, this should result in greater global exposure to more companies and site selectors, increasing the probability of significant investment in the park in the near future."

 

Code review

Compton said to make the city more business-friendly, city officials must review city codes with the planning and zoning commissions.

Fischer agreed, saying he hopes to simplify "zoning codes and make it easier to do business in Pataskala."

Fischer said as a city responds to issues and passes new laws, layers of laws can be confusing to developers.

"We'll have numerous proposals coming in 2014 to enhance and improve efficiency of (the zoning code)," Fischer said.

Fischer said he also hopes to review the zoning fees in 2014.

He said some fees could be consolidated and others eliminated to "make them (the fees) more user-friendly from a residential- and commercial-user standpoint."

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