A house in the 300 block of Bowen Road in Canal Winchester has broken windows, flaking paint, a damaged roof and portions of the front door are missing.

The property, in need of considerable repair, sits in a 450-acre area along the U.S. Route 33 corridor where the city hopes to spur economic development and reinvestment through a community reinvestment area (CRA), which Canal Winchester City Council approved Oct. 15.

"Some of these properties are showing signs of distress," development director Lucas Haire said. "They're not being maintained, so these are the types of things that you need to show to allow a property-tax abatement in the area. Hopefully, it will give people incentive to invest in this district."

The CRA allows tax exemptions, negotiated on a case-by-case basis, for up to 10 years and up to 50 percent of at least $100,000 in remodeling costs for existing commercial or industrial facilities.

Exemptions of up to 15 years and up to 100 percent for new construction of commercial or industrial facilities are permitted on a case-by-case basis.

Only commercial or industrial properties consistent with the city's zoning regulations are eligible for exemptions under the program, Haire said.

"If we propose exempting more than 50 percent of the taxes on any project, then the school district would have a right to approve that agreement, and they're entitled to revenue sharing as well," he said.

While Canal Winchester's residential growth remains strong, not all areas of the community are benefiting from the population boom, which is why Haire recommended creating a new CRA.

According to information from the city, Canal Winchester was named the fastest-growing community in Ohio, by percentage, in 2017, based on U.S. Census Bureau population estimates, with a 4.4 percent growth rate.

The community's total population was 8,294 in 2017, which is up from 7,101 in 2010.

"The declining desirability of this (CRA) area is also evident from the lack of building permits that have been issued within the area while the remainder of the community has seen a significant boom in construction," Haire wrote in a housing survey prepared for City Council as part of the CRA proposal.

"Certain properties within the proposed CRA have a blighting influence on the surrounding community and discourage additional investment."

The housing survey notes that the proposed CRA territory has "suffered from its proximity to U.S. 33 while many other parcels in the community have benefited from the access that U.S. 33 has provided."

Issues mentioned in the report include truck traffic and road noise on Route 33 that make the area less desireable for residential construction.

In addition, access to the area is challenging.

In August 2004, the access point at Cemetery Road and Route 33 was eliminated and in September 2006, the intersection at Bowen Road and Route 33 became right-in and right-out access only.

"These changes essentially cut off access to the portion of Canal Winchester north of U.S. 33 from the remainder of the community," the report states. "This left this area of the city isolated and continues to discourage development and redevelopment within this area."

The area is bounded on the west by Canal Winchester's city limits; on the east by the county line north of Route 33 and the Tussing-Bachmann ditch south of Route 33; on the north by Route 33 to the west and then crossing Route 33 at Cemetery Road and proceeding north to the corporate limits; and to the south by Winchester Boulevard to the west and then following the frontage parcels of Route 33 along Waterloo Street east, including one 7-acre outparcel on the south side of Waterloo and then back north of Waterloo to the Tussing-Bachmann ditch.

The city has two other CRAs that were created prior to 1994, when the state significantly changed the laws governing them.

The Ohio Revised Code defines a CRA as "one in which housing facilities or structures of historical significance are located, and new housing construction and repair of existing facilities or structures are discouraged."

Haire noted that of the 450 acres in Canal Winchester's new CRA, 240 acres already are for sale.

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