Westerville News & Public Opinion

Council gets legislation to buy Altair land


Westerville City Council heard the first reading of three pieces of legislation last week that would allow for the purchase of 67 acres along the south side of Polaris Parkway, between Cleveland Avenue and Africa Road.

City leaders hope to purchase the land for $6.7 million -- with an additional $9.5 million given to property owners to settle an existing tax-increment-financing agreement -- so the city can market individual parcels for retail, office and hotel development.

The first of the three ordinances heard by council June 4 would authorize the issuance of nearly $10 million in bonds to allow for the purchase of infrastructure, including water, sewer and electric service and landscaping on the site.

That is a discounted rate from what the city would have had to pay the property owners as the land developed under the tax-increment financing agreement that was in place, Westerville City Manager Dave Collinsworth said.

With that agreement terminated as part of the land deal, the city will be able to collect the money through that tax and use it to pay off the bonds, he said.

The second ordinance calls for the issuance of more than $7 million in bonds for the purchase of the property, and the third authorizes the city manager to enter into a purchase agreement with property owner Altair Realty Ltd./North Westerville Ltd. for a year, Collinsworth told council.

Jerome G. Solove, son of the late central Ohio developer Richard J. Solove, is listed in state records as the incorporator of both companies.

Westerville City Council is expected to hear a second reading of the legislation at its June 18 meeting and vote on it July 2.

The city has been in talks with property owners on the deal for nearly a year, Collinsworth told council.

The city hopes to purchase the land so it can speed economic development on one of the city's last remaining tracts of open land, Collinsworth said.

"We are virtually out of shovel-ready properties in the city," he told council. "We've had a multitude of interested parties unable to secure space."

Council members who spoke expressed support of the project.

"The economic development is critical to the success of Westerville," Councilman Craig Treneff said. "We're not a bedroom community like some suburbs. Our population more than doubles during the business day.

"Because of that, we're in a position and have been in a position to continue to sustain city services, outstanding city services."

Treneff said there's a clear demand for office, retail and hotel space in the city, and the economics of the proposal make sense.

Purchasing the property would give the city control over the development of one of the last remaining pieces of open land, Councilman Larry Jenkins said.

It's important that the city continues to develop and develop "in the right way," Jenkins said.

"It's a critical part to where our future is going," he said.