CUYAHOGA FALLS — A Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement proposed in conjunction with an 88-unit housing development near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park could pay for road improvements and the extension of utilities to the area.
The proposal was discussed by City Council and residents May 6. Council still has to wait 30 days from the public hearing to vote on the issue. Councilman Tim Gorbach (At Large) said this means the finance committee will not consider moving the legislation forward for a vote until June 17.
A total of 88 homes is planned on 105 acres along Sourek Trail between Smith and Sand Run roads in the former Northampton Township part of the city. Council approved the Ryan Homes’ "Woodlands at Sourek Trail" project last year.
The east side of the development (Woodland Villas) will consist of ranch homes and the west side (Woodland Preserves) will contain single family homes, said Community Development Director Diana Colavecchio. City engineer Tony Demasi said the entire project is expected to be finished in 2021.
In conjunction with the project, a 10 year, 75% TIF agreement is proposed. If the pact is approved, a 275-acre TIF incentive district would be created that would include both the new development and surrounding areas.
Under the TIF, for the next decade, "75% of the increase in [property] taxes as a result of the development will be paid by the owners, for the public improvements within the same district," said Law Director Russ Balthis. Improvements would be performed for residents on Sourek Trail, Sand Hill Drive and Kubic Drive, said Demasi.
Colavecchio said those taxes are expected to add up to $6.7 million during the 10 year period. Of that amount, $5.03 million will be used for the infrastructure upgrades and the Woodridge Local School District should get $1.1 million. She said Woodridge schools are not required to approve the TIF.
Colavecchio added the projected tax revenues are based on two assumptions: the estimated increase in the value of the development parcels will be $26.4 million and the approximate value of a home being built in the development will be $300,000.
Colavecchio said the city surveyed area residents and compiled a list of planned upgrades, including the installation of gas, water and sewer lines, as well as improvements to the roads, driveway access, engineering, design services and public art.
Demasi said Dominion is prepared to install gas lines for residents in the area as soon as the TIF legislation is approved. If the TIF is approved on the expected time table, Demasi said the $113,000 project to put in gas lines should happen in the next few months.
He added that water lines and road improvements still need to go through the design process.
He said the city is planning to widen Sourek Trail. He said 83% of residents who were surveyed said they did not want a sidewalk along Sourek Trail because it would be outside the right-of-way and many trees would have to be removed.
Four residents spoke during the public hearing on the proposed TIF.
Sand Hill Drive resident Jeff Brunson said gas service at his home has been inconsistent and that he hopes to have improved service before the next winter season. He added passage of the TIF was "imperative."
Sourek Trail resident William Shaheen referenced the "very contentious debate" surrounding the proposed project and noted the developer, residents and city leaders agreed there was a "massive need for capital improvements" in the area.
He called the proposed TIF an "essential piece of legislation."
"We appreciate that our voices were heard through that process," said Shaheen.
Sand Hill Drive resident Bob Bickett said the TIF and improvements it will pay for are "much needed."
Sourek Trail resident Dr. Fred Conti said there are a "lot of walkers" who walk along the roadway and something needs to be done to improve safety for them. Conti also touched on the past concerns surrounding the project.
‘We went through a long process here and it’s been a nightmare," said Conti. "We had a nice little street that could’ve been resurfaced … but Sand Hill and Kubic Circle, they got the best of the deal."
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.