Dublin council rejects Bridge Park developer's bond request

SARAH SOLE
ThisWeekNEWS.com
Dublin City Council rejected Craford Hoying's request to allow the developer to issue new bonds to help the company cover debt-service obligations for the Bridge Park development.

Citing concerns about the future of the city's finances because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Dublin City Council members declined to approve Bridge Park developer Crawford Hoying's request to cover a debt-service shortfall by issuing new bonds, some of which are set to be issued this month.

Council members made the decision at their Sept. 14 meeting in an informal poll, with four members against the developer's proposal and three in favor of it.

Mayor Chris Amorose Groomes, Vice Mayor Cathy DeRosa and council members Christina Alutto and Andy Keeler all said they were opposed to Crawford Hoying's proposal. Council members Jane Fox, Greg Peterson and John Reiner voiced approval.

Alutto said that because of the financial uncertainty of the pandemic, she didn't want to give up the possibility of Dublin receiving revenues from Bridge Park down the line.

"Let's use the tools that we did put in place," she said.

Greg Daniels, an attorney representing Crawford Hoying, told council during the meeting that paying off the debt-service shortfall with new bonds as the developer proposed possibly could reduce the amount of revenue the city could receive in 10 to 15 years from Bridge Park after all debt service has been paid off.

"In theory, it's possible; we just don't know yet," he said.

Alison Srail, executive vice president of finance with Crawford Hoying, said the developer had sought approval from council because its proposed use of bond funds is not "explicitly approved" under the development agreement between Crawford Hoying and the city.

Srail said revenue from townhome sales in Bridge Park's H block and bed-tax revenues from hotel stays are sources of income to cover debt service.

"The combination of the effects of COVID and the lower anticipated revenues from H block created the shortfall, but not in any order," she said.

Srail said Crawford Hoying's first phase in H block includes 22 townhomes, of which 20 are sold.

"While still in the planning stages, we intend to have a greater focus on condominium flats in phase 2 to address the continued demand in the market for that product type," she said.

According to an Aug. 20 memo, Crawford Hoying had sought council's permission to cover a $340,000 shortfall in A-block debt service with funds from new bonds issued by the Columbus-Franklin County Finance Authority for the D, F and G blocks of the Bridge Park development.

Refinancing of bonds for D and F blocks is scheduled to be completed later this month, Srail said. The G-block transaction will be finalized in the first quarter of 2021, she said.

Because of the format in which the A-block bond agreements were set up and because the debt-service shortfall isn't being paid from another source, residential and commercial property owners within Bridge Park are now responsible for funding it.

The Bridge Park New Community Authority, established in 2015, will impose an additional real estate tax on property owners of 2.9 mills for 2021. The millage would change to 1.7 mills for 2022.

An owner of a $750,000 residential condominium would pay $787.50 in the new tax millage in 2021, and the owner of an office or apartment building valued at $8 million would pay $8,400 that year.

The new community authority is a separate entity from the city and collects development fees to help fund parking structures and other public facilities in Bridge Park.

Srail said the new community authority would begin assessing tenants the additional millage in 2021.

She said about 100 Dublin residents own residential property at Bridge Park. There are approximately 30 tenants of office and commercial properties could be affected, as well.

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