A proposed amendment that would allow a developer to be reimbursed for the cost of creating a public dog park led to the postponement of the expected vote on legislation relating to the Residences at Brown's Farm/The Cottages at Brown's Farm.
City Council was slated to vote July 15 on a development agreement and measures relating to authorizing a tax-increment financing agreement that would provide the funds for public improvements to support the project. The TIF agreement calls for a 30-year, 100% tax exemption on the increase in value of the property, with the revenue set aside to pay for public improvements.
Instead, the second reading and vote on the ordinances were postponed until council's Aug. 5 meeting at the request of the developer, Wilcox Communities.
Wilcox Communities is planning to develop 100 cottage-style houses and 210 apartment houses on the 69-acre site south of Orders Road and east and west of Haughn Road.
The original plan for the development included a small, private dog park to be located within the project, said Jonathan Wilcox, partner with Wilcox Communities.
When the suggestion of making the dog park into a public space located in Fryer Park, adjacent to the development site, arose, "we started working with the city to work out the mechanics" of the cost and funding of that option, he said.
The developer requested the postponement after hearing that "maybe not everybody would be on board" with the dog-park plan and waiting would allow more time to craft a package the entire council could support, Wilcox said.
Council was presented July 15 with a revision to the TIF agreement that would authorize TIF funds to be used to reimburse the developer for the expense of developing the dog park at Fryer.
"I'm questioning how an almost $400,000 dog-park project on a whim ended up (being proposed) being paid for out of the TIF," Councilwoman Christine Houk said. "Couldn't we (pay) this out of the cash flow from the TIF in the future?"
His company would be willing to build the dog park at Fryer, Wilcox said, but would need to be compensated for the difference in cost of the "private little dog park" versus "the really nice (public) dog park."
The dog park is not included in the existing proposed TIF agreement or in the list of public-improvement projects that would be funded by TIF revenue, city administrator Chuck Boso said.
The agreement would have to be amended to include the dog-park reimbursement for the developer, he said.
The dog-park project could be completed at a later time, when TIF funds are available, or the city could pay for the project using general-fund dollars and could be reimbursed later from the TIF fund, Boso said.
What shouldn't be lost in the discussion about the dog park is the major infrastructure improvements that would result from the Brown's Farm TIF agreement, Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said.
"The city has brought forward with the help of the developer a package that says, 'here are the things that can be done. You can pick and choose. They don't all have to be done today, some can be done tomorrow,' " he said.
Those improvements would include a bicycle trail that would run behind Orders Road, new shoulders added to Orders Road to make it safer, extending Orders on the west side and "fixing" the lane leading into the YMCA site on Discovery Drive "and making it a road," Stage said.
The original text of the TIF agreement was an effort to address the infrastructure needs of the area near the Brown's Farm project, Houk said.
She said she was concerned about the dog-park issue being dropped in seemingly at "the last minute" and without "ample time" to discuss the dog park, whether the proposed location was best and making sure the park is created in "the right way," she said.
Councilman Ted Berry said the potential of locating the dog park at Fryer resulted from a conversation he had with the developer.
"My initial conversation with Mr. Wilcox was simply that if you're going to build a dog park in the area, how much would it cost and how much would it cost us," he said. "There was no conversation of 'oh, it's going to be done.' I was just asking if you're already going to put money (for a dog park) there (as part of the development), why not put it here (at Fryer) and the entire city could utilize it."
He learned about the estimated cost of the expanded dog park with other council members ahead of the July 15 meeting, Berry said.
"This has nothing to do with last-minute anything. I was just asking the question," he said. "I'm in firm agreement we can wait down the road on it."
The TIF agreement also would need to be amended to incorporate the agreement the city and Franklin County reached on arranging for a portion of the revenue from some county tax levies to be retained by the county and not diverted to the TIF, Boso said.
State law generally calls for new revenue from levies passed after 2006 to be protected and not diverted into TIF agreements, said Caleb Bell, an attorney working with the developer on TIF issues.
Revenue from old levies passed prior to 2006 that continue to be collected can be discussed if the county desires, he said. That's what the city and county have been negotiating.
The county has agreed that all revenue from older county levies can go into the TIF except for funds coming from the Senior Services, Children's Services, Alcohol Drug and Mental Health Board and Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities levies, Bell said.
About $195,000 annually would be retained by the county from those levies, he said.