After approving ordinances to combine properties and rezone land at 933 High St., Worthington City Council has paved the way for an independent grocery store to return to the city.
InSite Real Estate plans to bring Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, an open, specialty market, to Worthington. Fresh Thyme will be the city's first small grocery store since Jubilee Foods closed in 2006.
"If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times," planning and building director Lee Brown said during council's June 16 meeting. " 'We want another small grocery store; we miss Jubilee.' "
The city's desire for the grocer has been mirrored by its council, who had not even received an application from InSite until April. Only weeks later, the process is nearing its final stages.
"I know some have said that this seems like it's been a long process," council president Bonnie Michael said. "But I can't believe how far we've come in such a short time."
Fresh Thyme's location combines three properties into one lot, with a 30,000-square-foot store. A variance was needed because city code restricts retail use to 20,000 square feet.
The variance and both ordinances saw no opposition, and council voted 6-0 (David Norstrom was absent) in favor of both. Nearly all council members noted their appreciation for the developer, and the consensus was excitement over Fresh Thyme.
"This has been the smoothest, finest adventure that I've seen in a long time," council member Bob Chosy said.
Also introduced during the June 16 meeting was a resolution to place a tax-increment-financing deal on the property.
Worthington staff members recommended to council a non-school 75-percent TIF, which would allow the owners to pay only 25 percent of the usual taxes for 10 years on the property.
The TIF is an assumption by the city that when the store is opened, the tax revenue the city receives would be great enough to offset the differences over the 10-year period.
Because Worthington City Schools would receive a portion of those taxes for the next 10 years, the resolution includes language that recommends InSite signing an agreement with the district to pay it what it would have been receiving without a TIF in place.
A public hearing for the TIF ordinance was set for Monday, July 7.