Westerville News & Public Opinion

Blendon asks voters to OK JED zone, home rule


Blendon Township Administrator Bryan Rhoads has spent the last several weeks going door to door, making his pitch to residents to garner support for the proposed joint economic development zone with Westerville and home-rule authority.

The two measures, which Blendon Township voters are being asked to approve in the Nov. 6 election, are crucial to helping the township shape its fate, Rhoads said.

"We hear what the residents want, and we feel we understand what the residents need, which is a better Blendon Township -- one that continues to redevelop. Clean up the area and start to bring on our own identity, rather than just a cut-through. In order to do that, we need the tools to help us get to that," Rhoads said. "This is how we can achieve that goal.

"Together, this is a package for our residents to help move forward into a new time for Blendon Township."

The approval of home-rule authority for the township would allow trustees to offer incentives to businesses and take control over its utilities by creating its own water and sewer districts.

"With a traditional township government, we're not able to do this," Rhoads said.

The joint economic development zone would create a 30-year agreement between Blendon Township and the city of Westerville, under which Westerville would apply its 2-percent income tax to the township's business properties and undeveloped residential properties. A small portion of that money would be retained by Westerville for the cost of collecting the taxes, and by the board overseeing the joint economic development zone for administrative costs.

A cooperative economic development agreement recently passed by Westerville City Council and Blendon Township trustees establishes that, Blendon Township would receive 70 percent of the remaining money to provide improvements, such as upgrading Westerville Road to match the improvements recently completed by Westerville to the north.

Westerville would retain the remaining 30 percent to provide economic development services to the township.

Those who work and live in Blendon Township will not see taxes increase if the joint economic development zone is approved, Rhoads said.

For those who work in Blendon Township, income tax already is collected, but that money goes to Columbus or the cities in which those employees live, Rhoads said.

The joint economic development zone would allow the township to recapture that money to support its own improvements.

"We're bringing the money back. The people are already paying it where they live. It's just bringing the money back to Blendon Township," Rhoads said. "This was a way to generate revenue without increasing property taxes on our residents and just redirect money back to our township. It's probably one of the most innovative ways to increase revenue without raising taxes, in my eyes."

There are a few businesses who, because of the way they manage their funds, could see a new tax, Rhoads said, but the township is committed to working with those businesses to create incentives that would offset any additional taxes.

Rhoads said the residents and business owners he's spoken to have largely been supportive of the joint economic development zone and home-rule authority.

"Residents are voting these businesses in the zone, and these businesses want to be in the (joint economic development zone), so it's a win-win," he said. "I hope everyone understands that this is for them. It will bring up their property values and hopefully increase their customers."