Now that Upper Arlington voters have OK'd the rezoning of 3371 and 3381 Tremont Road for a proposed medical office building, there's a movement afoot to reduce the impact on the neighborhood with the addition of landscape screening at public expense.

Now that Upper Arlington voters have OK'd the rezoning of 3371 and 3381 Tremont Road for a proposed medical office building, there's a movement afoot to reduce the impact on the neighborhood with the addition of landscape screening at public expense.

Those who opposed the rezoning argued that the development would drive down property values of nearby homes. Upper Arlington City Council member Wade Steen has proposed that the city consider implementing tax-increment financing for the development and use the funds generated to screen the back of the office building from the neighborhood behind it.

Steen noted that TIFs are often used to fund public infrastructure improvements -- such as road repairs, sidewalks and water/sewer line upgrades -- near commercial developments.

"The taxes are paid, but instead of being paid as taxes, they're paid as service payments and it's redirected to the city to use in what we see best to serve the city," Steen said.

Council is currently considering TIF agreements for public infrastructure improvements near 10 properties on West Lane Avenue, including the new Arlington Commons mixed-use development that is under construction at the corner of Brandon and Chester roads, and the Arlington Crossing condominium development on Tremont Road.

Matt Shad, deputy city manager for economic development, said he would have to research whether a TIF can be used to screen a residential neighborhood from a nearby commercial development.

"The key is can you substantiate it as a public improvement that's beneficial to the public?" Shad said.

Jeff Bibbo, president of Centro Inc., the Upper Arlington-based company that is developing the Tremont Road medical building, said a site plan is in the preliminary stages and he and his partners have not considered collaborating with the city on a TIF agreement.

"We have not thought about that one way or the other," Bibbo said. "If the city suggests something, we'd certainly consider it."

Bibbo added that Centro has always planned to develop the site in a way that best fits with the surrounding neighborhood.

"I have always said we want to cooperate with the neighborhood. We still intend to do that," Bibbo said. "It's also what (the Board of Zoning and Planning) requires us to do."

Pemberton resident Fort Merullo, who lives near the rezoned Tremont Road site and helped organize the referendum effort, said he would like to see a variety of landscaping to screen the medical building from the neighborhood.

"Certainly it's going to depend on how much greenspace they're going to have between the parking lot and the property line," said Merullo, who is a landscape architect by trade. "I'd like to see some multi-textures of evergreens that are at least 8 to 10 feet high."

Since plans for the medical office building still have to be approved by BZAP and construction will not begin until some time in 2009, the city has ample time to explore whether a TIF agreement is appropriate for the property, Shad said.

"As far as the timeliness of it," he said, "we have a fairly significant amount of time to elect to do something."

cbournea@thisweeknews.com