Despite concerns raised by one of its members, Grandview Heights City Council is proceeding with legislation related to Wagenbrenner Development's Grandview Crossing project.

Council approved ordinances Jan. 22 to rezone the portion of the project area that lies within Grandview and to authorize the city to enter into an economic-development agreement with the developer for that portion.

Wagenbrenner is proposing a 53-acre mixed-use development at the northeast corner of Grandview Avenue and Dublin Road, with about 15.9 acres in Grandview and the remaining parcels in Columbus.

The Grandview portion of the development is expected to include up to 50,000 square feet of office space; up to 250 apartment units, including a proposed senior-living development; a hotel with up to 200 rooms; and up to 50,000 square feet of retail space.

Council also is considering legislation to authorize the execution of a Community Reinvestment Area agreement, to create a tax-increment financing agreement and to authorize the mayor to enter into a TIF agreement and cooperative agreement with the developer for the Grandview Crossing project.

Those ordinances were given a second reading Jan. 22.

A Community Reinvestment Area allows property-tax exemptions for property owners who renovate existing buildings or construct new ones.

Tax-increment financing reallocates money generated by increased property values within a designated area toward projects such as infrastructure repair within that area.

The proposed Community Reinvestment Area has been amended to include projections provided by Wagenbrenner regarding construction costs, anticipated number of employees and income-tax revenue associated with the Grandview portion of the project.

Construction costs are expected to exceed $60 million.

The project also will include a sitewide investment of about $41 million, including $31 million in public infrastructure and real property improvements to support the project and the surrounding area.

The project is expected to begin later this year and be completed in multiple phases.

Wagenbrenner estimates 100 full-time employees will work in the businesses located in the Grandview portion of the development and that between 100 and 250 construction employees will work in the project area during the first three years of construction.

Grandview Crossing is expected to bring about $100,000 of additional income-tax revenue annually for the city.

The economic-development agreement was passed as an emergency measure, meaning it becomes effective immediately on Mayor Ray DeGraw's signature. The other pieces of the legislative package are nonemergency measures.

Wagenbrenner will be provided a 15-year, 50 percent tax abatement for the residential and nonretail commercial development in the Grandview portion.

A 15-year, 75 percent abatement would be granted, pending the approval of the Grandview Heights school board. If the board does not give its OK to the larger abatement, the tax break for the hotel property would be capped at 50 percent.

State law requires any tax abatement larger than 50 percent to be approved by the local school district.

Grandview City Councilman Steve Reynolds said he was troubled that council would consider passing the tax incentives on an emergency basis.

"I echo many of the concerns that some of our residents have voiced," he said. "I'm not seeing a need for an emergency basis."

Passing the measure as an emergency also would restrict residents' right to bring an objection to the measure forward as a referendum, Reynolds said.

He said he had raised another concern with city attorney Joelle Khouzam: that a sticky legal situation could arise for the city with only one Grandview Crossing ordinance being passed as an emergency.

If residents bring one or more of the nonemergency measures forth as a referendum, it could put the city in a legal position that would be "more than a bit precarious," Reynolds said.

Passing the economic-development agreement as an emergency means the city has to start working with the developer on other agreements, including the TIF and development deals, he said, and the developer could find the city has made representations regarding all those items that it can't meet because of a referendum, he said.

A resident could be "ticked off enough" by the passage of the economic-development agreement as a emergency that they could decide to seek referendums on the other items "to throw a monkey wrench in the system," Reynolds said.

But Khouzam said those concerns are unwarranted.

City Council has been "very mindful" of when to use the emergency provision, she said.

The tax-abatement ordinance "is the one that puts all the pieces related to the Wagenbrenner project in play," Khouzam said.

She said she further researched the matter after Reynolds initially brought his concerns to her attention.

"Ohio law expressly anticipates this concern and creates a protection for development packages that come forward so there is not a situation where the developer has in good faith relied on the representations of a municipality and moves forward only to have the project held up by a referendum measure," Khouzam said.

There's always risk in any measure, she said, "but I don't have concerns at this point" about the Grandview Crossing legislation package.

Reynolds cast the only vote against both ordinances approved at the Jan. 22 meeting.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman