Jefferson Township’s trustees are moving forward with a joint-economic-development-district contract with the city of Whitehall, despite Gahanna mayor-elect Laurie Jadwin urging them to postpone the decision.
Trustees voted unanimously Dec. 23 on the issue.
Mike Anderson, the township’s development director, said the proposed JEDD area includes one parcel comprising 12.4 acres on Reynoldsburg-New Albany Road, near the intersection with North Street.
A JEDD is a specified development area that collects revenue from mixed-use residential and commercial development as a way to self-fund the additional resources that it requires to be economically viable, according to Anderson. A JEDD contract between a township and municipality allows for an income tax to be imposed on parcels within the district to fund needed economic-development-related activities. Only the parcel or parcels within the JEDD are subject to the tax.
In the case of the Jefferson Township-Whitehall JEDD, Anderson said, only one parcel, which contains the Grays Point at Blacklick Station mixed-use development, would be subject to the tax. The property owner of the single parcel within the JEDD has petitioned to be included in the JEDD; no other parcels will be included.
“The reason I’m speaking here today is to ask for the opportunity to set a new path for Gahanna and for Jefferson Township,” Jadwin said. “Over the last 10 months I spent a lot of time walking the streets of Gahanna talking to our residents. One thing I consistently heard from them is that they want our leadership to have a better working relationship with Jefferson Township, with the three of you, with your residents, with your leadership here.
“They recognize we’re next door neighbors. Your success affects our success. Our success affects your success. I think the JEDD is a great idea,” she said.
Jadwin said she thinks the township is working with the wrong municipality.
“We share a school district, we share roads,” she said. “All roads in and out of Jefferson Township lead through Gahanna. For all intensive purposes, our businesses, our restaurants, our shops, our events serve Jefferson Township trustees.”
Jadwin said when next-door neighbors don’t get along, it affects everyone around them.
“In this case, that’s our residents and that’s your residents,” she said.
Jadwin asked the trustees to delay the JEDD vote to work with Gahanna.
“Help me; let’s work together to set a new path for the city of Gahanna and Jefferson Township,” she said. “We are the key to what the future of this area is going to look like, and it behooves all of us to work together.”
Trustee chairman Mike Rowan said, speaking on behalf of the board, members are looking forward to working together in any way they can to benefit both communities and to bridge problems from the past.
“Hopefully it’s the first of much development that’s going to occur in the Blacklick village area,” he said. “We’ll have the opportunity to work with other municipalities. It’s not like once we make this first agreement, then we’re stuck in any way with only one partner. We’ll have the ability to make arrangements and agreements with other municipalities. And, so, I’m very hopeful in the future we’ll have the opportunity to work together on this type of project and many other things as well.”
Rowan said when the discussion about the JEDD started, Gahanna was still at a 1.5% income-tax rate.
“I don’t want to pull the rug out from a partner we’ve been working with for some time,” he said.
Courter said he was asked on the street, “why not Gahanna?”
He said when the project presented itself, Gahanna and one of the township’s developers were at a crossroads about a path at Hannah Park.
“That gave me an eye to look someplace else,” he said.
Courter said he hopes the township and Gahanna can foster a better relationship in 2020.
Yoder said she has tried to be a bridge builder between the city and township.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we do have closer neighbors who we could have worked with (other than Whitehall),” she said. “At the time, we were looking at your city tax levy that was up last spring and comparing that to Whitehall with Gahanna. Whitehall, of course, is 2.5(%). You, at that time, were 1.5. Times are changing and we have an opportunity to look at new ways to develop the township with new partners and new avenues to explore. I’m certainly a person of vision who likes to do the right thing.”
Whitehall economic-development manager Jenna Goehring said Whitehall City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday, Jan. 7, on the JEDD, after the township completes its approval process.
Jefferson Township’s legal counsel Julie Donnan of Brosius, Johnson and Griggs LLC, said the next step would involve the township and Whitehall making appointments to a JEDD board that would govern the district.