Any expectation that the planned Planet Oasis development would create a financial windfall for the Big Walnut Local School District is premature, district Superintendent Angie Pollock said.
During a July 12 livestream on the district website, Pollock cited one view that the planned recreation and entertainment complex would raise $550 million in annual taxes, with a large percentage going to Big Walnut schools.
“Quite frankly, I don’t believe that’s the case. We were literally approached one day before the press release (announcing Planet Oasis),” Pollock said. “We’ve had no conversations with the developer about what those revenues may look like. ... If there is that much revenue, the majority of it is probably sales tax and we do not receive sales tax.”
Planet Oasis is a $2 billion, 350-acre development planned near the Interstate 71 and U.S. Route 36/state Route 37 interchange, adjacent to the Tanger Outlet Mall in Berkshire Township. It was announced June 28 by developer Blue Horseshoe Ventures.
The plan calls for attractions that include a “world-class” skate park, a BMX racing facility, a wellness retreat and a saltwater lake with a sand beach. Pollock said the project would be as big as Kings Island.
“We do have an income tax in our district, but it’s a ‘bedroom’ tax,” Pollock said, “which means you actually have to reside in the district to pay that tax. I’ve heard anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 jobs. Unless those people actually live in our district, we would not be receiving any income tax.”
Another likely drain on tax revenue for Big Walnut could be property-tax incentives.
“If the township permits it, the developer can have the right to a 10-year, 75 percent (tax-increment-financing district),” Pollock said, “which means we would only get 25 percent of the revenue we should get in property tax. They can do that without our consent.”
A TIF is an economic-development mechanism available to local governments to finance public-infrastructure improvements and, in certain circumstances, residential rehabilitation, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.
A TIF locks in the taxable worth of real property at the value it holds at the time the authorizing legislation is approved, diverting resulting incremental revenue to designated uses, such as funding necessary improvements or infrastructure to support a new development.
Revenue that exceeds the locked-in valuation of the land is diverted from the entities that typically receive property-tax revenue, including school districts, parks districts, libraries and fire departments.
Berkshire Township trustee Bill Holtry said a “TIF is in place for any commercially zoned land in our township. County officials and township officials manage the process together.”
Pollock said a TIF has limited Big Walnut’s income from the Tanger Outlet Mall to about $350,000 a year.
“We receive around $250,000 annually after the TIF. So we receive 25 percent of taxes that we would otherwise get,” she said. “We also receive an additional $100,000 payment in lieu of taxes each year.”
Although $350,000 a year “sounds like a lot, on a $43 million (annual) budget, it is not a lot. I can tell you that. It’s not ... replacing the need for a levy,” she said. “We want to be good community partners, and we want to work with all of our townships and villages on development. We just want to make sure the public knows that (Planet Oasis is) not something that’s in our sandbox to control. ... We have not seen any projections or figures, nor do we have any reason to believe (Planet Oasis) will provide a huge windfall for us anytime in the near future.”
Delaware County economic-development director Bob Lamb has said the county has yet to review Planet Oasis project plans, which also will be reviewed by the county engineer, the Ohio Department of Transportation and possibly the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission.
The development process has “a lot of different moving parts,” Lamb said.