Westerville News & Public Opinion

Westerville, township mull economic development pact


Westerville City Council and Blendon Township trustees are looking to approve a deal to share funds raised through a joint economic development zone agreement that will go before Blendon Township voters Nov. 6.

A public hearing was held on the cooperative economic development agreement Oct. 3. Blendon Township trustees were expected to approve the agreement Wednesday, Oct. 10, while Westerville City Council plans to vote on it Tuesday, Oct. 16.

The agreement outlines how Westerville and Blendon Township would share funds collected through the joint economic development zone, which would apply Westerville's 2 percent income tax to commercial and undeveloped properties in Blendon Township.

The economic development zone legislation dictates small percentages of the tax revenue would be retained by the city and the board overseeing the joint economic development zone for administrative costs.

Of the remaining revenue, 70 percent would go to Blendon Township for local services, streetscaping and infrastructure improvements, while Westerville would retain 30 percent for the economic development services it would provide, Westerville Economic Development Administrator Jason Bechtold said.

The cooperative economic development agreement also states that if a monetary incentive is offered to lure a business to Westerville from Blendon Township, the tax revenue gained through that business must be shared between the city and the township for a period of time.

The agreement states, too, that if Westerville should look to annex Blendon Township properties in the future, the annexation must go through a full public process and will not be expedited.

However, Westerville has been clear that the joint economic development zones and the cooperative economic development agreement are not intended to lay a path for annexation.

"We have no desires or aspirations to go after the (joint economic development zone) property in annexation," Westerville City Council Chairman Mike Heyeck said previously.

Even if both Westerville and Blendon Township approve the economic development agreement within the next week, it would not go into effect unless Blendon Township voters approve the joint economic development zone, Blendon Township Administrator Bryan Rhoads said.

If the joint economic development zone is approved, tax collections would not begin until Jan. 1, but the township and the city would go to work immediately setting up the boards to oversee the zone and looking at economic development, Rhoads said.

"(Westerville is) already keeping an eye out for potential businesses that could come into the township and looking at our vacant commercial and retail face that can be filled up," he said.

Both the city and the township have touted the joint economic development zone and the economic development agreement as prime examples of how cities and townships can work together to improve an area.

"I'm really excited about the (agreement) because it shows how townships and cities don't have to battle each other. They can work together with economic development," Rhoads said. "It's just something that you just don't see. Economic development is key. Westerville now has a vested interest in seeing Blendon Township developed.

"It's an amazing extension of our already great partnership with the city."