Gahanna City Council's finance committee Aug. 24 learned from the city's planning and development department that a council vote in 1992 means abatements for Creekside condo buyers already are in place.

Gahanna City Council's finance committee Aug. 24 learned from the city's planning and development department that a council vote in 1992 means abatements for Creekside condo buyers already are in place.

According to Mayor Becky Stinchcomb, people who buy condos at the Creekside already are able to get 100-percent, 10-year property-tax abatements, per a measure council had approved years ago, designating Olde Gahanna as a community reinvestment area (CRA).

Stinchcomb told ThisWeek earlier this year that Creekside developer Mo Dioun had asked for a limited abatement on the Creekside condos. Columbus and Bexley offer limited abatements on downtown condos.

Bexley City Council in June increased the tax abatement for its downtown condos to 70 percent for 15 years, but before the issue of extending Creekside tax abatements made it to council, city officials conducted a legal review of the area.

Anthony Jones, deputy director of planning and development, said that the department discovered through the review that new construction -- residential or commercial -- in Olde Gahanna is eligible for a 100-percent tax abatement for 10 years. Dioun had given up the abatement for the building itself, which is only the shell.

The person who buys the condo in the Creekside area could ask for a 100-percent abatement for 10 years -- the limit of the abatement passed in 1992, when the Olde Gahanna CRA was set up. At the time, the law provided less flexibility and called for the full abatement for the full length of the time period.

There were some nuances to the 1992 law. A residential renovation could quality for a five-year, 100-percent abatement, and multiple-family construction would receive 100-percent abatement for 10 years.

Stinchcomb said she and Councilman Tom Kneeland were new Gahanna City Council members in 1992, but neither she nor Kneeland remembered that residences would get the full abatement.

The controversy that the abatement created in 1992 centered on a provision of the CRA that required Gahanna City Council to declare the area as "blighted" in order for it to receive the tax abatements. No one expressed objections to the 100-percent abatement then.

That tax abatement allowed business owners and residents to enjoy the benefits of the abatement. Any new construction of a business or residence was eligible for the abatement.

The administration now is proposing that the Olde Gahanna CRA be expanded to include the entire area in the Olde Gahanna Vision Plan.

As part of the proposal, the administration also asked that 100-percent, 10-year abatements be limited to only those residential units that are sold prior to Dec. 31, 2012.

Stinchcomb said she has a further proposal for the Olde Gahanna CRA but wanted to let the council digest this news first. She said the development department would present the second part of the proposal during the Sept. 14 meeting.

Council members were, for the most part, quiet after learning the abatement already was available.

"We've talked a lot about the current economy," Councilman Tom Evers said. "We know that the economy is going to turn around. We want to be in a position to spur economic development once it does turn."

Evers suggested that council wait to hear the second part of the presentation, but said, "We should look at expanding the boundary of the Olde Gahanna area."

Councilman John McAlister, however, expressed anger, calling the 1992 tax abatement "incredible."

"These condos should sell through the marketplace," he said. McAlister said the city was "propping up" the price of the condos, at the taxpayers' expense.

"The only way these (condos) should probably sell is through bankruptcy," he said.

Jones said that by limiting the tax abatement to 2012, the city is protecting the stream of revenue it collects through the tax-increment-financing (TIF) district, which pays for the infrastructure improvements in the Olde Gahanna area.

Council's next meeting is at 7 p.m. Sept. 7. The next committee meeting is at 7 p.m. Sept. 14.