Hotel project bonds approved

After some debate Hillsboro City Council adopted by a split vote Tuesday an ordinance providing for the issuance of $3 million in bonds that will help get construction started on a Marriott Hotel in Hillsboro.

Council voted 5-1 to approve the emergency ordinance. Councilman Justin Harsha, who will take over as mayor at the beginning of the year, voted against the issue after saying he “would really suggest that this be put in the committee, at least to look over a little bit.”

“Some questions have been raised by the auditor (Gary Lewis), and he just got this a few days ago,” Harsha said of the legislation. “This is a lot of money we’re talking about. I don’t want to hold the project up, but I would suggest putting this into committee and having a first reading tonight.”

Council members Patty Day, Claudia Klein, Ann Morris, Mary Stanforth and Adam Wilkin voted in favor of the ordinance. Councilman Brandon Leeth was excused from the meeting.

The ordinance is related to legislation recently passed by council and the Hillsboro City Schools to establish a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) for the proposed 80-room hotel, plus a restaurant, that would be built near the intersection of SR 73 and Harry Sauner Road.

“This is basically the next step in that sequence of events that must happen in order to keep this thing moving forward,” Council President Tom Eichinger said.

He said the ordinance will let the city sell bonds to generate funds to pay for the infrastructure work as it happens, since the TIF won’t pay for it until the property is developed.

“It would seem that if our auditor had any real, valid concerns about this, he wouldn’t have been absent for the last six months here. Not only that, he would have engaged in conversation. Apparently, he’s had conversations with the mayor-elect about this, but no one else,” Mayor Drew Hastings said. “Is that right?”

Harsha also said Lewis had just received a copy of the ordinance.

“But he’s known about this TIF funding for months. It’s of no concern or sweat off of his back after another two or three weeks from now, and it falls into Mr. (Alex) Butler’s lap to deal with,” Hastings said.

Butler will take over as auditor after the turn of the year.

Upon being asked by Eichinger about his feelings on the matter, Safety and Service Director Dick Donley said, “It’s extremely important that we go ahead and do something because they’re hoping to start developing after the first of the year.”

Donley also said he spoke with Lewis about the matter the two weeks ago.

Council voted 5-1 to suspend the usual three-readings rule, with Harsha again providing the lone dissenting vote, then adopted the ordinance by the same vote.

Earlier in the meeting, council tabled an ordinance to approve $135,000 in 2020 city funds to demolish and develop the Gross Feibel property that Hastings said has been the city’s biggest eyesore for 40 years.

“This will also make the site shovel ready for any developer to improve the property,” Hastings said. “… I believe there’s a lot of positive signs that the site can be readily developed. I think there’s probably interest for a small industrial park.”

Donley agreed council should continue efforts to clean up the site.

But Harsha, chairman of council’s finance committee, wondered whether due to a $500,000 deficit the city is currently looking at in its 2020 temporary appropriations, if the Gross Feibel demolition was needed or not, or whether the demolition of the Parker House should take precedence.

Council voted 6-0 to table the ordinance, with Eichenger asking the finance committee to consider it further during its planning for the 2020 permanent appropriations.

In a lighter part of the meeting, local resident Juan Cole was presented with the Outstanding Citizen of the Month Award.

Hastings said that some time ago Patti Burns, a city water department employee, told him Cole was someone he should meet.

“So I met him last month and we got to know each other a bit. So later I told he and his mom to come to council this month. She texted me today and said, “Is Juan getting this plaque because he raised the most money for Walk of Life or is he getting it for his contagious personality?’” Hastings said. “I told her for his personality. He has a great sense of humor and is a really positive dude.

“All of us go through adversity in life, some more than others. But I think that a lot of what defines our character is how we react to adversity. So, because of the many fundraising efforts you’ve been part of and your positive approach to life, I am presenting you with our Outstanding Citizen of the Month Award – which by the way, we don’t give out often – to you, Juan Cole. Thank you for inspiring me and others.”

Council also was presented a petition with 106 signatures requesting parking in the uptown area.

Morris, saying she was speaking for uptown businesses and the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association, asked if some of the space created by the demolition of three buildings in the 100 block of West Main Street, or a possible future open spot, could be purchased by the city to create parking.

She said additional parking would “help create revenue and help keep businesses uptown.”

Eichinger said he would turn the request over to the safety and service director for possible later review by council’s Street and Safety Committee.

Morris said the Property Maintenance & Restoration Committee she chairs is still awaiting news on developments with the Parker House property.

“It’s still caught up in legal. I think it’s in capable hands with the law firm in it’s in,” Hastings said.

The mayor said the Jack Hope family owns the building and needs to take care of it, despite the fact that Hope or his representatives tried to sign the deed to the building over to the city.

Hastings said if the matter goes to court, he’s confident the court would rule in favor of the city. He also said that if the legal issues drag on too long, the city could tear the building down and the sue Hope or his representatives for the cost of the demolition.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.

Juan Cole (front) receives a standing ovation from city officials after he received an Outstanding Citizen of the Month Award at Monday’s Hillsboro City Council meeting. Cole (front) receives a standing ovation from city officials after he received an Outstanding Citizen of the Month Award at Monday’s Hillsboro City Council meeting. Jeff Gilliland | The Times-Gazette
Gross Feibel demolition tabled; Cole Citizen of Month

By Jeff Gilliland