A decision by the Olentangy school board could lead to the development of a multimillion-dollar industrial park and the completion of several key transportation projects in southern Delaware County.
The Olentangy Local School District's board Sept. 14 voted to allow the county to move forward with tax incentives and a tax-increment financing district for the Creekside Industrial Park project. The incentives will be employed to facilitate the development of a 93-acre site off U.S. Route 23 directly east of Menards in Orange Township.
Bob Lamb, Delaware County's economic development director, previously told the board the industrial park could house 700 workers with an average salary of about $43,000. While no firms have been secured for the project, Lamb said the site could support light industry, logistics and offices, among other uses.
The developer has requested the county approve a 10-year, 50 percent property-tax exemption for improvements made at the site. The exemption would decrease by 10 percent annually in years 11-15.
County officials also have been asked to approve a 20-year, 75 percent tax-increment financing district on the site. In a TIF district, taxes on improvements at a site are diverted into a special fund to pay for infrastructure work in the surrounding area.
If the land is not developed, Olentangy would receive about $120,000 in property-tax revenue from the site over the next 20 years.
Olentangy Treasurer Emily Hatfield said if the site is developed, projections provided by the developer show the district taking in about $6.9 million over 20 years, even with the tax breaks and TIF district in place.
Hatfield said district officials asked for a guarantee that revenue from the TIF district would fund improvements within Olentangy Local School District's boundaries. She said the agreement approved by the board reflects that request.
"They have changed that and made that (clear) that the infrastructure will be placed within Olentangy's jurisdiction," she said.
One target for TIF revenue is the extension of Home Road east from its current terminus at U.S. Route 23, over multiple railroad tracks to make a new connection with Lewis Center Road.
School board President Roger Bartz said he voted in favor of allowing the use of incentives for the project, despite "some reservations" about transportation changes it could spur.
Along with the extension of Home Road, other proposed projects in the area include the widening of Lewis Center Road and the construction of a new Interstate 71 interchange at Big Walnut Road.
Bartz said he worries the corridor eventually could mirror U.S. Route 36/state Route 37 near Delaware, with "heavy vehicles" mixing with residential traffic. Still, he said he thinks some people would appreciate aspects of the transition.
"I think (many) residents will love it because it will cut down on commute times," he said.
Bartz said the potential increase in tax revenue from the now-vacant land also is difficult to ignore.
"In the short term, it makes sense from a revenue perspective," he said.
Delaware County commissioners still must approve incentives for the project.
According to county records, Highdev II LLC owns the site. State records list Columbus businessman David McCurdy as the statutory agent for the corporation.