A joint economic-development district that would support the Evans Farm development's town center has been approved by both the Orange and Concord township boards of trustees.

Orange Township trustees unanimously approved the creation of the tax district at its March 16 meeting. Concord approved the JEDD on April 2.

The measure next will go to the village of Shawnee Hills, which is set to vote later in April, according to Delaware County economic-development director Bob Lamb, whose office helped broker the deal and would serve as staff to the JEDD board, if approved.

A JEDD is an economic-development tool that allows an income tax to be levied in an unincorporated area.

Under a JEDD agreement, an incorporated municipality -- in this case, Shawnee Hills -- administers and imposes an income-tax rate to a designated area within a township, which lacks the power under Ohio law to impose an income tax.

The municipality and township -- or townships, in this instance -- then share the local income-tax revenue based on a formula agreed to in the JEDD contract.

"Both Concord Township and Shawnee Hills would receive a financial benefit from participating," Lamb said, "with Shawnee Hills serving as the taxing entity."

Although the participating governmental entities need not be contiguous, Lamb said, law provides for only one political subdivision to be "jumped."

Evans Farm is a 1,250-acre, mixed-use development north of Lewis Center Road in Orange and Berlin townships that began construction in late 2017. The area affected by the JEDD would include the area around Lewis Center Road between North Road and Evans Farm Drive -- about 100 acres.

Orange Township trustee Ryan Rivers said if the JEDD is approved, a 1% income tax would be levied on businesses and their employees within the district.

That includes construction workers, Lamb said.

It would not apply to single-family homes, Rivers said.

"(Township) residents would not pay any new tax" as a result of the JEDD, Rivers said.

The 1% rate would be fixed for the first 10 years, Lamb said. The percentage could be adjusted after that period.

JEDD revenues may be used to promote economic development and for infrastructure, planning and engineering costs and other development issues within the district.

"These are things that, per the Ohio Revised Code, townships are normally not allowed to spend tax monies on," Lamb said. "That's where a JEDD comes in."

The Delaware County Finance Authority is also a participant in the JEDD, providing up-front legal costs and, if the JEDD is approved, serving on the JEDD board.

Rivers said the next step, following the creation of a board, would be to secure development within the new tax district in order for it to begin generating funds. Lamb said the prospects are encouraging.

"There is a strong desire to build in Delaware County right now," Lamb said.

He acknowledged that any situation is fluid, in particular due to the unknown potential impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus, but that "construction and economic development are continuing at this time in many areas of the county."

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