August 23, 2017 10:33:57 AM
Tuesday marked a key moment in the efforts by the city of Columbus to redevelop blighted areas of the city, a move that every citizen should support, even though it will mean an increase in taxes.
The city council voted unanimously to raise taxes by 2½ mills over the next three years -- 1 mill in 2018, and ¾ mills the following two years. The tax increases will provide the Columbus Redevelopment Authority the $3.2 million it requested for the CRA's first redevelopment project, a 52-lot area of the city located just east of the Columbus Soccer Complex in an area known as Burns Bottom.
John Acker, who made the pitch for the five-member authority, which was formed three years ago, said roughly two-thirds of the money will go to purchasing property with the remainder designated for site preparation and marketing/planning.
In recent years, many people are taking a harder look at efforts to recruit development by offering tax cuts and give-aways. Too often, the taxpayer gets the short end of the stick in these sweet-heart deals.
We do not find that to be the case with Burns Bottom. The money spent here to recruit private investment into this public/private partnership is no give-away, considering the value of the land. Individually these lots have little value, and it is unlikely that the area will improve on a piece-meal basis.
A carefully planned large-scale development seems to be the most plausible way of arresting blight in the area while making it an attractive, something that complements some of the city's best assets located nearby -- The Riverwalk, soccer complex and our downtown, which continues to reinvent itself.
Not only will this project address the dilapidated conditions of much of this property, it also has the potential to add significantly to the city's tax base.
Acker assured the council that the CRA and the city council will have a say in what sort of development comes to the area. That is important.
Two years ago, the county -- suspicious that the CRA redevelopment plan for Burns Bottom would consist of low-income housing -- bought several lots to serve as a buffer between the soccer complex and the area designated for redevelopment. We encourage the county to take another look, because we believe there are safeguards in place to ensure against that scenario. The county and CRA should work together in good faith to make these improvements, which benefit us all.
There are a lot of "ifs" at this early juncture. But if the CRA holds true to the conditions they have laid out and if they are consistent in their execution of the project, we believe it will be a good investment by taxpayers, and offers potential for a long-term benefit for the city.
We know what will happen if nothing happens in this area of our city. It will continue to decline.
Given that, we believe redevelopment is worth the small risk proposed here.
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