Downtown Redevelopment Districts, and uptown, downtown, even at the fairground


By Gary Abernathy - gabernathy@timesgazette.com



When any municipality has the opportunity to attach Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to a project or district, the only question should be, “How soon can we say yes?”

The beauty of TIFs is that they don’t raise anyone’s taxes. Property taxes are going to rise anytime enough improvements are made to increase a property’s value. TIFs simply allow a portion of the additional taxes that result from improvements to be designated to a particular area.

The Ohio legislature’s decision last year to allow cities like Hillsboro to create Downtown Redevelopment Districts based on TIF financing is brilliant. If city council comes up with a reason not to approve the DRD proposal, it will be a shortsighted decision that has unfortunately been turned into a campaign issue (more on that below).

Even local school districts — which depend on property taxes — almost never object, because they’re not losing anything they already have. At most, they’re only sacrificing a small portion of future revenue they might or might not get anyway. They realize the school district is part of the community at large, and helping a local municipality prosper is good for everyone. Mayor Drew Hastings met with local school officials on the matter a few weeks ago.

Of course, someone will wring their hands with worry over the possibility that Drew’s properties might somehow benefit, heaven forbid. That issue has already been addressed in a lengthy legal opinion by the law director. All will be well.

It is not shocking that an anonymous campaign website and video have already been produced in opposition to the DRD, targeting both the mayor and council member Ann Morris (full disclosure for the millionth time, Ann is my sister). It does not tell us who paid for the website or video, or who is behind it, despite the narrator of the video clearly stating, “Let’s make it an election issue.” It doesn’t even include something like, “Paid for by the Committee to Oppose Anything Drew Hastings Wants.”

Someone will no doubt be notifying the Ohio Elections Commission about a campaign website with no required disclaimers or identification. It must have been made by someone outside Hillsboro or Highland County, since anyone in Highland County would have the courage to put their names on it. (Please spare me the “they’re afraid of retaliation” nonsense. If something is worth saying, it’s worth taking whatever risk is necessary to stand behind it.)

Again, if anyone thinks a conflict exists involving any elected official, there are ethics guidelines to avoid such conflicts. It’s not a reason to kill the whole idea. For a non-partisan look at DRDs without the taint of local politics, and from an identifiable source, check out the video by Heritage Ohio on YouTube.

The separate TIFs that safety and service director Mel McKenzie will be asking council to approve on the new dentist office on Pea Ridge Road and the new Orscheln Farm and Home store on Harry Sauner will have a more immediate financial result than the DRD, since those improvements are already underway. But the DRD will benefit the historic business district for generations to come. Council, find the willpower to say yes.

Speaking of downtown redevelopment, excuse me while I digress for a moment into a discussion of “uptown” versus “downtown.”

Back in 2011, when I began my latest adventure at this publication, I was told that the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association requested that anytime we refer to Hillsboro’s historic business district, we refer to it as “uptown” rather than “downtown,” because, you know, that’s the word used by the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association in its name.

I guess “uptown” made for a better acronym than “downtown.” The acronym HUBA is pronounced “hubba,” as in “hubba, hubba,” which is what a guy says when he sees a pretty woman, except these days no one really says that, outside of Fred Flintstone when he first sees Ann-Margrock.

However, I personally prefer “downtown,” and I’ve been using it in stories more and more. I think HUBA is well enough established that referring to “downtown Hillsboro” won’t detract from HUBA’s fine work.

Digression complete. Now, back to the Festival of the Bells. I know, I wasn’t talking about the Festival of the Bells, but let’s move on to that, because there’s nothing more that needs said about Tax Increment Financing, except just do it.

A number of churches have apparently been contacted to show up Tuesday at the joint committee meeting to implore the city to leave the festival uptown, or downtown, because of the Christian music concerts that now open the festival on Thursday nights. A rumor is being spread that the mayor wants to do away with Christian music in favor of heavy metal bands. Right – preferably with a satanic ceremony first.

I guess someone realized how effective it was when an evangelist came and preached about the devil in Drew Hastings at the Civil Service and Employee Relations Committee meeting last month, and figured maybe the same principle will apply.

Personally, I think the festival should be uptown, or downtown, but it’s entirely reasonable to discuss perhaps compressing it into a two-day event or moving it, whether to some other location nearby or even just a block in either direction so it doesn’t close down the center of town and both of the two major highways that intersect here. Is there some reason we can’t even talk about it?

But overall, I’ll let everybody else fight about that one. However, “Uptown, Downtown, or Even at the Fairground” might be a song in the making. I got first dibs. Otherwise, have a nice fight, everyone.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

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By Gary Abernathy

gabernathy@timesgazette.com