Economic development is the goal of new legislation headed to Hillsboro City Council next week, according to Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings.
Hastings said he plans to introduce legislation on Downtown Redevelopment Districts and accompanying economic development plans for consideration at city council on Tuesday, and the public will have a chance to provide input on the matter at a public hearing Oct. 20.
Hastings said Friday that the overall goal of a DRD is to preserve and revitalize historic downtown areas and promote economic development and job creation by redirecting a portion of property tax revenue back into the district for further development.
Essentially, the mayor said, if properties in redevelopment districts are improved and gain a higher property tax value, revenue from increased property taxes — the portion that represents the difference based on the higher values — is directed back into the district’s coffers.
Hastings said there will be “no tax increase, at all, for anybody.”
Entities such as school districts do not lose their existing tax revenues, since the portion that is directed back to the redevelopment district only comes from the additional amount generated by property improvements.
“Instead of property taxes being broadly spent across all of Highland County, it keeps the increased part within the district,” he said. “Whenever you as a citizen get a property tax, you don’t get to decide how it’s spent. In this case, property owners get a voice in how their property taxes are spent. And I think that’s a big deal for people.”
In turn, the district’s operating committee is able to offer grants or loans for renovations and more improvement projects. Funds can also be used for other purposes, such as infrastructure, Hastings said.
District committees are guided by economic development plans passed by city council with initial legislation, Hastings said, and city officials are currently revising a draft of such a plan for Hillsboro.
Hastings said council will mull the creation of two redevelopment districts, one in the uptown area and another surrounding the old stockyards area and Gross-Feibel property, which the city recently purchased.
Hastings said the stockyards area “has more upside potential because it has undeveloped land,” and would be a prime location for a hotel or sports complex, both of which would funnel revenue back into the proposed district.
Hastings said he heard about redevelopment districts at a mayor’s conference in February after the concept was approved in state legislation last year, and he has since compiled “hundreds and hundreds of pages of notes” while gathering input from property and business owners, realtors, the school system and other area “stakeholders.”
“When it came to my attention, it jumped out at me,” Hastings said, “because it was almost like they had our city in mind when they created it.”
Hastings said several small cities around southern Ohio have also established redevelopment districts.
Ann Morris, a council member and uptown business owner who has been involved in the planning process, said she likes the idea.
“The downtown redevelopment district program is a great opportunity to keep the center cities of Ohio looking their best,” she said. “Dollars generated from the improvements of each property go strictly back into the downtown/uptown areas that the properties are located in… The dollars can be used for projects that the DRD group chooses.”
Morris said a number of amenities are being considered for the district, including free internet, trash pickup and low-interest loans, “to name a few.”
Morris said property owners within the district can choose whether or not to be part of the district.
Council member Bill Alexander said he’s in favor of the idea as well.
“I think that the mayor has worked really, really dilligently on that, and it’s something that’s going to benefit Hillsboro to a great degree.”
Council member Justin Harsha had no comment on the matter. Council members Tracy Aranyos, Dick Donley, Claudia Klein and Rebecca Wilkin could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Hillsboro City Council will meet Tuesday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. in the municipal courtroom at the Highland County Justice Center.
The public hearing will be held Oct. 20 at 5:30 p.m. in the same place.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.