The Johnstown-Monroe school board Dec. 14 approved legislation to offer tax abatements to businesses looking to develop in a 279-acre site that's in New Albany but also in the Johnstown school district.

The Johnstown-Monroe school board Dec. 14 approved legislation to offer tax abatements to businesses looking to develop in a 279-acre site that's in New Albany but also in the Johnstown school district.

The New Albany Co. owns the land.

The agreement is the same as the ones New Albany currently has in place with both the New Albany-Plain Local School District and the Licking Heights Local School District.

The three-party agreement gives J-M's approval for New Albany to grant property-tax incentives that could exempt, abate, redirect or redistribute the district's portion of property-tax revenues derived from future improvements to all or any portion of the property.

In consideration for this consent, New Albany obligates itself to share with J-M an agreed upon portion of income-tax revenues generated by future development on the property.

In recognition of the benefits it would receive from the execution of the agreement, J-M agrees to provide its support toward MBJ Holdings' efforts to annex the property to the village. Likewise, J-M agrees to support MBJ's efforts to zone the property for nonresidential uses.

MBJ Holdings is a NACo affiliate.

According to the deal with the J-M schools, for each dollar spent, 30 cents would go to paying back debt, and 15 cents would be used to pay the city of Columbus for water and sewer services for 15 years.

A summary provided by NACo stated that at build-out and after a revenue-sharing agreement expires, J-M will receive 100 percent of the real-property taxes estimated at $2.89-million annually. That estimate is based on nonresidential development of 279 acres at 10,000 square feet per acre.

The rest would be split evenly between the village and the school district until the district is made whole, meaning the amount of money the district would have received without the exemption in place.

New Albany Village Council still must approve the expansion of its Economic Opportunity Zone and establish additional accounts within the zone. That resolution would expand the New Albany EOZ in the state Route 161 area off Beech Road, within the J-M school district.

Johnstown-Monroe board president John Davis and members Karen Blair and Polly Moore voted for a tripartite agreement involving the village, the J-M board and MBJ Holdings, as well as a compensation agreement between the village of New Albany and the J-M board.

Board member Jay Young was absent, and Terry Holter dissented.

Holter said the compensation agreement "wasn't enough," and he questioned why the board needed to act on the legislation so quickly.

"I want to better understand what's involved," he said.

Davis said he saw no reason to wait.

He said a second attorney, Don Scriven, of Scott, Scriven & Wahoff LLP, examined the agreement to make it had no "loopholes."

In a Dec. 8 letter to Superintendent Damien Bawn, Scriven noted two downsides to not accepting the compensation agreement:

Without tax incentives, the affected property could remain undeveloped or be developed with uses that generate little school revenue. The land is at greater risk to be transferred in the future to another district or to at least embroil Johnstown in a territorial dispute that could be costly.

Davis said NACo had purchased the property, with expectations to develop it for commercial use. He said he supports the agreements because vacant farmland isn't helping the district, whereas development could bring tax revenue and jobs to Johnstown.

Bawn said Scriven had described the compensation agreement as "fundamentally fair."

Holter said negotiations weren't handled properly.

"They can't give us a deal different than the other districts," Holter said. "This group brought a plan and gave us a compensation deal to make us whole."

ThisWeek staff writer Gail Martineau contributed to this story.