Construction is expected to begin in July on a $19 million, 124-unit assisted-living facility on Sturbridge Court after Hilliard City Council members approved a tax break for the project May 22.

Legislation applying the Ohio Community Reinvestment Areas program for a 15-year, 50-percent property-tax abatement for Wallick Communities' Ashford at Sturbridge was approved 4-2.

Council President Nathan Painter, Vice President Kelly McGivern, Al Iosue and Bill Uttley voted in favor of the measure. Les Carrier and Joe Erb dissented, and Tom Baker was absent.

The CRA program is an economic-development tool administered by municipal and county governments that provides property-tax exemptions for property owners who renovate existing or construct new buildings.

Wallick Community officials are ready to move forward immediately with construction of the three-story, 83,000-square-foot facility on Sturbridge Court off Scioto Darby Road, said Nicole Boyer, vice president of senior-living development for Wallick Communities.

Construction is expected to finish 16 months after it begins, she said.

"We are happy that we can expand in this community and look forward to continuing our success here," said Sharon Shaffer, a senior vice president at Wallick Communities, which has one other assisted-living campus in central Ohio: Ashford on Broad in Whitehall.

A studio unit at the Ashford at Sturbridge would be $1,900 a month, Boyer previously said.

Details of the vote

The ordinance approving the Ashford at Sturbridge CRA was amended prior to the vote at the request of McGivern. The amendment required Wallick Communities to certify each year that at least 50 percent of its senior residents had relocated to the facility from Hilliard or Norwich Township.

If the condition is not met, Wallick Communities would be required to reimburse Norwich Township a prorated amount for emergency-medical or fire-suppression services rendered to the facility, McGivern said.

She said she proposed the amendment to avoid the scenario of Ashford at Sturbridge providing assisted living for a disproportionate number of residents from outside Hilliard and Norwich Township, thereby increasing the demand on emergency services from Norwich Township.

The residency incentive would mitigate the demand on services because the fire department would serve them whether they remained in their own residences or at Ashford, McGivern said.

"If we are providing a tax abatement, ... it must truly serve the citizens of Hilliard," she said.

Proponents of the CRA said it is necessary to advance the project, which is needed in the community.

"Sometimes government needs to do the right thing (and) not just watch every dollar," said Iosue, who rebutted Carrier's opinion that Hilliard has a sufficient number of housing options for senior citizens.

Iosue said although Hilliard has an increasing number of senior-citizen communities, such as at the Hickory Chase development, it has fewer assisted-living facilities.

He said only Carriage Court of Hilliard on Heritage Club Drive, with 102 units, and Hilliard Assisted Living and Memory Care on Trueman Boulevard, with 80 units, provide the level of assisted-living services that the Ashford at Sturbridge would bring to the community.

"This brings 124 additional assisted-living units our seniors need to remain living here. ... This project is right for our community," Iosue said. "It is unfortunate (Carrier) is using this for his re-election campaign."

Carrier said "negativity is not campaigning."

"It is clear that residents in our city are opposed to using (tax incentives) for residential developments. ... It increases traffic and taxes," he said.

He said City Council and the administration first used tax incentives for empty-nester residences, then apartments for millenials and now the facility for senior citizens.

Uttley, who lost in the May Republican primary for council that also included Carrier, Baker, McGivern and school board President Andy Teater, said he supported the measure because he believes "Hilliard is for everyone."

"This is a no-brainer," Uttley said. "We need to give the seniors the support they need."

Carrier challenged the opinions of Iosue and other council members concerning the project.

"The only one who will be making a profit on this is Wallick," he said after the meeting. "Everyone else will be paying more taxes.

"Any time you abate taxes, it isn't that they just aren't paid. ... It's spread out among the existing taxpayers."

He said it also would raise taxes on senior citizens who choose to remain in their single-family residences.

Erb praised McGivern's amendment but said it was not enough to sway his vote.

"It's a better bill, but I can't support it," he said.

Carrier and Erb voted with the rest of City Council on a CRA for Ten Pin Alley, a bowling alley that will expand at 5499 Ten Pin Alley.

Both acknowledged that neither proposal would include high-paying jobs but they said they supported the Ten Pin Alley CRA because it will not cause a measurable increase in service from the Norwich Township Fire Department, it is not residential in nature and it would bring customers to Hilliard.

Erb said he remained opposed to the Ashford at Sturbridge CRA because the jobs it would bring to the city do not warrant the tax break.

"The (average) income tax-revenue from Ten Pin Alley is a little more (than Ashford Sturbridge) ... and Sturbridge will increase the number of (EMS) runs for Norwich Township," he said. "Further, Ten Pin Alley is locally owned and not a large conglomerate."

Carrier said his primary reason was because it is a tax break for a residential purpose.

In 2015, Carrier helped form Keep Hilliard Beautiful, an organization that placed the Issue 9 charter-change amendment on the ballot in March 2016. Voters approved the charter amendment to prohibit City Council from rezoning by emergency and from using tax-increment-financing agreements for residential developments or those with residential components.

Although a TIF works differently from a CRA by redirecting incremental property-tax revenue from the improvements toward public-infrastructure funding, using a CRA for residential developments of any kind is the same principle residents opposed through Issue 9, Carrier said.

Comparing CRAs

The value of the Ashford at Sturbridge CRA would be $200,063 each year, according to David Meadows, Hilliard's economic-development director. The total value over the 15-year term would be a little more than $3 million, he said.

The value of the Ten Pin CRA is estimated at $1.26 million, or about $105,000 per year, Meadows said.

For each year of the 15-year term, the Ashford at Sturbridge CRA would generate $2,926 in property-tax revenue for the city, $26,789 for Norwich Township and $128,529 for the school district, Meadows said. That adds up to a little more than $158,000 per year in property taxes to just those three entities, a figure that would double after the abatement expires.

That means the total over 15 years would be $43,890 in property-tax revenue for the city, $401,835 for the township and $1,927,935 for the school district.

It also would generate an estimated $20,000 in annual income-tax revenue, Meadows said.

In comparison, Ten Pin Alley, which is expected to add 25 jobs as a result of the CRA, would generate a little more than $22,600 in income-tax revenue per year for the city, he said.

The business has 10 full-time and 20 part-time employees with a $524,569 payroll, Meadows said. The payroll generates approximately $10,500 in annual income-tax revenue for the city, he said.

The new jobs, 10 of which would be full time, would be expected to generate $12,161 in new income-tax revenue, he said.

Over the 12-year term of the CRA, Ten Pin Alley is expected to generate a total of $18,436 in new property-tax revenue for the city of Hilliard, $168,806 for Norwich Township and $809,904 for the Hilliard City Schools, Meadows said.

That is about $83,000 a year in new property taxes the business would pay to those three local taxing districts, he said. The figure doesn't include other local property-taxing entities, such as the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

The payment would double after the abatement expires in 12 years, he said.

Currently, Ten Pin pays $25,325 per year to all property-taxing entities, which include the city, township and school district, Meadows said.