Cuyahoga Falls -- City Council recently approved legislation that puts in motion an economic development plan with a financial tool to improve public infrastructure and spur new construction.

The plan includes the establishment of a tax increment financing (TIF) incentive district in the northeast section of the city around Mill Pond, along Mud Brook, north of Graham Road.

Planning Director Fred Guerra told City Council the TIF incentive district is being created to address the needs of the Mill Pond-Mud Brook Greenway Master Plan approved by Council a year ago.

"When we looked at everything the plan recommended," Guerra said, "(including) trails, trailheads, wetland storage areas, renovation of stream banks, extending of utilities, improving substandard streets, restoration of historic buildings, modification of the existing dam at Mill Pond, dredging Mill Pond, cleaning the brownfield at the former (Buckeye Sports) gun club, we ended up looking at a budget for the plan of $12 million We said, 'We need a mechanism to help do these things.'"

The ordinance states the existing public infrastructure in this area is inadequate to permit the construction of commercial, industrial and residential facilities or support adequate storm water management systems and flood controls, sanitary sewer system extensions and passive recreation.

Planned improvements in the area will be spread out over a 20-year period, Guerra said, and the city needs to come up with funding in addition to grants.

While master-planning was going on, two developments began in the area, The Enclave at Mill Pond, and a senior housing complex at Pleasant Meadow.

The TIF plan allows the city to use a portion of property taxes from private investments toward public improvements, and the "major need" in this area is storm water retention.

"When we started the master plan, we thought it was just going to be a trail plan," Guerra said. "When we finished it and we had input from the neighbors, we knew it was more than a trail plan. It was also a storm water plan. And that's why the total amount of doing everything was almost $12 million."

Guerra said the master plan was broken down into three incentive districts which basically guide how money is spent. The developers of the two housing projects were contacted, he said, and both teams were in favor of a TIF district. The city's law department got involved.

With the Dec. 27 approval of the economic development plan, the planning department will host public hearings prior to the actual establishment of a tax increment financing incentive district, said Guerra.

Incentive District One is the greenway on both sides of Mud Brook, Mill Pond, both development sites and a potential development site on Wyoga Lake Road. The first incentive district is 195 acres and about 27 percent of the Master Plan area, he said. A portion of the land, 28 percent, would remain open space, and 72 percent would be developable land including existing and future developments.

Without going into detail, Guerra said the economic development plan looks at current land values based on Summit County valuations and projected land values based on potential development projects.

"We think we can [improve upon] what is there today based on using the an increment of taxes for public improvements. This is an excellent way to get public improvements for existing problems today and paying for it with new development."

Councilman Michael Brillhart (D-5) who represents the Fifth Ward where this TIF incentive district is being proposed, said he appreciates the work Guerra and the administration have put into this project.

"It's pretty safe to say there hasn't been a week since I've been on Council that I haven't had at least one contact with somebody regarding storm water management It's just very reassuring that this is going to be solved."

Email: swiandt@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9420

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