Joint Economic Development Zone
Ballot issues would help township with goals
Blendon Township leaders have a vision for the future, but they need residents' support to help make that vision a reality.
The township trustees have placed an initiative to develop a joint economic development zone with Westerville on the November ballot, along with an issue that would give the township home-rule authority.
Blendon Township is now working to get the word out to residents about the two ballot items, township Administrator Bryan Rhoads said.
Pamphlets were sent to residents recently, and the township is working to schedule question-and-answer sessions, he said.
"We're really excited about it and gearing up for the election by educating everybody about it," Rhoads said.
The joint economic development agreement would authorize Westerville to collect its 2-percent income tax on commercial properties in the township, which under Ohio law, does not have the authority to collect taxes.
With the joint economic development zone agreement, the city and the township will look to approve a cooperative economic development agreement that would establish how the tax money collected in Blendon Township would be divided.
Under the agreement, Westerville would retain a portion of the money collected within the joint economic development zone as an administrative fee for collecting the tax, as well as in exchange for providing economic development services to the township.
"In that agreement, that's how Westerville will be sending us back payments for the joint economic development zone," Rhoads said. "Also in that agreement, they are giving us their economic development team to help build up Blendon and bring in businesses to fill in empty businesses."
The agreement also includes a non-compete clause, stating that neither the city nor the township would offer incentives to lure businesses away from one another, and a clause stating that Westerville will not look to annex Blendon Township property.
The cooperative economic development agreement would not need approval by voters, only by Blendon Township trustees and Westerville City Council.
Blendon trustees voted last week to hold a joint public hearing on the matter at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Blendon Township Senior Center, 6330 S. Hempstead Road. Westerville City Council is scheduled to consider the agreement later this fall.
Under the joint economic development zone and cooperative economic development agreements, it's estimated that Blendon Township would see an additional $2.5 million in revenue each year.
The township already is looking at how that money could be spent, soliciting proposals for improvements to Westerville Road and creating a grant program that would offer incentives to commercial property owners for improving the exteriors of their buildings.
"We don't want residents driving out of Westerville into Blendon and see it's a mess," Rhoads said. "There's a lot going on, and it's all in anticipation of the (joint economic development zone) passing."
The Blendon Community Plan created by Franklin County a few years ago showed where residents want to see change, and the revenue collected through a joint economic development zone and the authority given to the township with home rule would allow for those improvements, Rhoads said.