The board of directors of the Pataskala Corporate Park joint economic-development district formed earlier this year already has found itself reorganizing to include two additional members and having to seek the state attorney general's advisory opinion about JEDD income taxes.

The board of directors of the Pataskala Corporate Park joint economic-development district formed earlier this year already has found itself reorganizing to include two additional members and having to seek the state attorney general's advisory opinion about JEDD income taxes.

All of this is before the first business has even joined the district.

The wrinkle, said board director Jerry Brems, who represents Licking County on the JEDD board, is that although everyone anticipated the JEDD would apply to new businesses that move into the district as the land is redeveloped, no one is quite sure how to treat farmers.

Brems said the impact is limited somewhat by the fact that only a single landowner, Howard Emswiler, holds all 520 acres of the JEDD.

The existing three-member board voted 2-1 in June to pose the question of how to treat farmland to the attorney general, with Brems and Larry Kretzmann, Harrison Township representative, voting in favor of seeking the opinion and Pataskala administrator Tim Boland dissenting.

"The question we asked is, is pre-existing farming subject to a JEDD income tax?" Brems said. "And we also asked whether farming can be exempted from a JEDD income tax. Some municipalities do exempt them and some don't."

Ohio law allows local governments, including townships, counties and municipalities, to create development districts in which income taxes may be applied and the money spent on development and general government activities. A roadway is being built through the JEDD area, and the participating governments will try to lure businesses there. A 1.75-percent income tax applies to employees of the JEDD.

In a July 13 letter, the attorney general's office declined on a technicality to respond to the board's questions, noting that JEDDs do not have the privilege under Ohio law of seeking an advisory opinion from the attorney general. Such requests must come either from the county prosecutor or the law director of a home-rule township.

Brems said July 21 that he would ask the county prosecutor to submit the request on behalf of the JEDD.

Ohio law also requires that any businesses in the JEDD have a representative on the board and that employees also have a representative. Although all members had envisioned this requirement applying to businesses and their employees within the JEDD, no one seems sure whether farmers would be considered business owners subject to the requirement, nor are they clear about who the employees are, especially in the case where the landowner is also the laborer.

"It's an interesting question," Brems said.

As the sole landowner, Emswiler would be named as the business-owner representative in the JEDD. Brems said an employee representative had not been identified.

In other business, city administrator Tim Boland, who serves as vice chair of the JEDD board, reported that Pataskala City Council had approved the JEDD, seeking to obtain funding for a $5-million rail spur.

"My understanding is, it's the only application for rail funding in (Ohio Department of Transportation) District 5," Boland said. "It's been on the drawing board for a long time. It would make the site that much more competitive. We hope to hear some feedback in September, and we hope it will be successful."