Worthington News

Huntley-Proprietors Road corridor

Loan program designed to spark business growth

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Worthington City Council on March 17 unanimously approved an ordinance that's designed to boost declining property values in some of the city's business space in the Huntley-Proprietors Road corridor.

The Re-emergent Corridor Assistance Program (ReCAP) is intended to create jobs in the area and attract new buyers and renters for the properties by offering a mixture of grant funds and interest-free loans. Participating owners or tenants could use the grants or loans "to improve their building facades and surrounding streetscapes."

Assistant City Manager Robyn Stewart said the plan was modeled after other cities' projects, with the help of the Community Improvement Corp. (CIC).

"We've been looking at what other communities have been doing, and we've also talked about this proposed program with our CIC over the last few months, and they've helped us refine the program," Stewart said. "The purpose is to spur property owners to reinvest in particularly commercial, office, business locations in Worthington."

According to the ordinance, funds may be used for painting, lighting, awnings, signage, demolition and other visual alterations. Recipients would not be allowed to use the funds to pay on other loans, working capital, security, routine maintenance, fees, maintenance or interior renovations.

Loans of up to $12,500 could be offered on the program's $100,000 budget, which already was approved in the city's economic development fund, and would be paid back interest-free over three years.

It is not currently known what the payment plans for such loans would be, though council decided that the process of repayment for each loan should be established when the loan is issued.

"Since it's a new program, we wanted to get the City Council to sign off on it first," Stewart said. "There are still a few details that we need to iron out, but we'll work through those."

Those interested in funds would have to apply using the ReCAP application form, which must include photos of the property and designs of the proposed improvements. Applications would be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, and awardees would have to be approved by City Council along the way.

"Staff will do an initial screening to make sure we have all the information, and then we'll bring those applications forward to the CIC," Stewart said. "The CIC will screen those and then make a recommendation to the council, but ultimately, the council will need to approve the agreement that is entered into between the city and whatever organization or entity is getting the grant or loan."

Among the criteria used to determine which applications would be accepted are the property's current condition, how "well-constructed" the application is, how extensive the project would be and whether the applicant has demonstrated an ability to complete the project and repay the potential loan.

In other action:

Council voted to support a motion allowing City Manager Matt Greeson to join the state-wide fight against gypsy moths.

The motion gave Greeson permission to write an authorization letter to the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing small planes to carry pheromone flakes to fly at a low level -- sometimes within 200 feet of the treetops -- over the city.

Dispensing the pheromone flakes disrupts the moths' mating pattern, making it difficult for the destructive pests to reproduce and limiting their effect on the environment.

The pheromone flakes are not considered harmful to any other species, including humans.

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