Gahanna City Council will continue discussions with developer Metropolitan Holdings of Columbus in 2020 regarding a $22 million project for 129 apartments near Creekside.
After council member Brian Metzbower placed legislation to consider a revised developer's agreement on the Dec. 16 council agenda, council voted to send the issue back to committee for discussion.
Metzbower said he was asked to place the legislation on the agenda on behalf of the developer Dec. 13.
The action caught Mayor Tom Kneeland off guard.
"Well, I've seen it all," he wrote in a social-media post on Dec. 14. "This post is about the new Creekside apartment development on Mill Street and is the largest and most important decision the city has to make in our downtown since Creekside was built."
He said the legislation was placed on the agenda to adopt a revised developer-incentive agreement unseen by the administration with unknown incentives and givebacks with emergency language and waiver of a second reading.
"Why?" he asked.
"I have entertained and worked with the Mill Street team largely for one reason: A local builder is looking to invest upward of $22 million into our community," Metzbower wrote in an email to his colleagues. "Whether you approve of the development or not, I do feel strongly that projects such as this get to be discussed in the public arena, and, as I have said many times before, I don't want the message to anyone seeking to invest in the city of Gahanna to see our governmental system as a stalwart."
Council member Stephen Renner opposed the legislation being on the agenda.
He said it was his preference the ordinance be introduced and sent to committee next year.
Council member Nancy McGregor said she intended to make a motion to remove the legislation from the agenda.
"In speaking with those who are seeking to work on this project, I wanted to make sure we were showing good faith for the proposed concessions they have presented to us thus far," Metzbower said. "That's why I agreed to put this on."
A proposed change in the developer's agreement includes paying the city $25,000 for a portion of North Street, instead of asking that the street be vacated.
In addition, the developer has removed public assistance for demolition costs.
"We're trying very hard," said David Hodge, the developer's attorney. "We have worked extensively and exhaustively to bring this project to fruition. We'll continue to work into the beginning of next year."
He said he wants to dispel the myth that "we're asking for the moon and stars here."
Hodge said the proposal is consistent with the city's comprehensive plan.
Metropolitan Holdings president Matt Vekasy said the $22 million project would bring 129 apartments, and the proposal is to take advantage of the Community Reinvestment Area's 15-year, 100% tax abatement.
He said there would be $399,175 in public improvements and fee waivers, which includes $271,000 of tax-increment-financing reimbursements for public infrastructure and $128,000 of fee waivers.
Metropolitan Holdings chief financial officer Andrew Lemmon said he believes the project would have a substantial financial impact for Gahanna, not only from the revenue sources it would generate but also from the purchasing power of the development's residents.
"Assuming each unit makes the Gahanna median income, they would have roughly about $800,000 of disposal income to spend on external food and entertainment annually," he said.
During their final meeting of the year, council members also commended Kneeland, who is handing the job of mayor over to Laurie Jadwin, for his service to the community and Gahanna.
Metzbower also was recognized for his service as a Gahanna City Council member at large, and Shane Ewald was honored for his years of service as city attorney.