Gahanna City Council is expected to continue discussion about a $22 million proposed apartment development along Mill Street by Metropolitan Holdings during its Tuesday, Nov. 12, finance committee meeting.

Council finance chairman Jamie Leeseberg said more discussion is expected about a developer's agreement, with it possibly moving forward to the regular council agenda Nov. 18.

During the Oct. 28 finance committee meeting, council, the city administration and the developer's team discussed at length the future progression of the project, as well as how it landed in council's finance committee.

Leeseberg said the developer's agreement was given to him to bring before finance -- after the developer had been working with the administration and it stalled.

He said some items have been problematic with the agreement, such as including the Community Improvement Corporation, and that has been removed.

"It wasn't coming forward from the administration. It's a financial agreement. That is our purview. Money is us. That's why it belongs here, to have these conversations. Are they asking too much? If they're asking too much, then tell them it's too much," Leeseberg said.

Gahanna Mayor Tom Kneeland said "the cart is being put before the horse," and the project first needs to go through the planning commission process.

"I think there are going to be changes," he said. "The changes that occur, whether technical or legal, I think they're going to have an impact on this agreement. That's my opinion. It seems like because what it has to go through at planning commission from a technical-review aspect, it needs to be vetted there before we know what's presented."

Following the meeting, Kneeland said he's concerned about the expediency of the agreement.

"I'm worried it has been presented as the administration isn't working with the developer," he said. "In reality, I've personally met with (property owner) Doug Maddy on several occasions with two other partners he had."

He said the Metropolitan Holdings proposal originated last year.

"We've been working through the negotiations of the financials," Kneeland said. "Evidently, they think we aren't working fast enough."

He said he wants to make sure the city gets the right development.

"The planning commission is the statutory group that will have the most say on how this project goes forward," he said.

David Hodge, an attorney with Underhill and Hodge LLC, represents clients Doug Maddy of Brookewood Builders and Metropolitan Holdings, who are partners in the project.

"It's real in here tonight," he said. "It needed to get real on this project."

Hodge said his clients are trying to develop a $22 million project in Gahanna and it has been percolating for some time.

"We've heard a lot of discussion about 'Why not?' " he said. "But, from our perspective, we ought to talk about why.

"We're talking about a vacant, derelict car wash across the street from your crown jewel, Creekside," Hodge said. "What does that do? What does that do for the community? Nothing. From a tax perspective, from an aesthetic perspective, from a pedestrian perspective, from an economic-development perspective, it doesn't do diddly-squat."

He said north of the car wash site is a vacant office building, and on the other side of Mill Street are a sports facility and some reasonably decent office where the Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau is located.

"But in terms of what we're trying to do is come into town and do a $22 million development that's complementary to Creekside, that's complementary to the development that's going on there," Hodge said. "We're trying to create feet on the street to supplement what's going on at Creekside."

He said the project has to be a collaboration between the developer and the city.

If the developer's agreement doesn't get approved, he said, then the deal doesn't get done.

"We're not going to go spend the money with the engineers and architects and all the requirements of planning commission," Hodge said. "They're spending the money like a sieve now to get to here. And, so, we have to understand that we're going to work collaboratively now and not after a long, drawn-out planning commission process."

He said the developer would go through the planning commission process, but the developer's agreement would need to be approved first.

In other discussion, council member Nancy McGregor said she would like council to consider lowering parks and recreation fees because Issue 12 was approved, increasing the city's income-tax rate.

"I'd like to back fees down," she said. "I know costs go up. We purposely increased (fees) to make up the difference (in the 2019 budget).

Parks and recreation director Jeff Barr said he would provide data at the next committee meeting to compare 2018 and 2019.

When last comparing Gahanna to other municipalities, Barr said, Gahanna was in the middle for camp and aquatic fees.

"When I bring back it back in two weeks, I'll have that comparative information," he said.

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