Hillsboro City Council on Tuesday heard the first reading on an ordinance creating two Downtown Redevelopment Districts within the city, and made arrangements for future discussion of the city joining Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District as a member.
In his report, Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings said the two redevelopment districts, one set for the uptown area and the other for the former stockyards/lumberyard property and surrounding areas, will generate revenue for the city while promoting economic development in the area.
Hastings said the uptown district would include Bell’s Opera House, renovations for which were “deemed most beneficial by most people,” and said he had discussed possible conflicts of interest with Beery, since Hastings owns the opera house. Hastings said Beery is “confident that it can become a community asset that is free of any conflict.”
The other DRD would include the old stockyards area, the Gross Feibel property, and a historic building at 158 and 160 W. Main St., Hastings said, where Habitat for Humanity is operating a store, and could be a good location for a hotel and sports complex, which would generate a large amount of revenue for the district.
As reported by The Times-Gazette last week, the overall goal of a DRD is to preserve and revitalize historic areas and promote economic development by redirecting a portion of property tax revenue back into the district for further development.
Essentially, the mayor told The Times-Gazette, 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.
In turn, the district’s operating committee, guided by an accompanying economic development plan, is able to offer grants or loans for renovations and more improvement projects.
Hastings described the ordinance during the meeting as “one of the most important legislations this council has had before them and the easiest to consider.”
A public hearing will be held in the municipal courtroom at the Highland County Justice Center on Friday, Oct. 20 at 5:30 p.m. for public input on the matter.
As for the Paint Creek discussion, Hastings said he believes the city’s expenses will be lowered substantially if it joins the fire district as a member rather than keep paying for services on a contract basis.
“The expenditure of over half a million dollars a year from the general fund can be eliminated by joining the fire district,” Hastings said. “Our initial reasons for contracting, which is what we currently do, were to see if the fire district was up to the job or could prove itself. I think they’ve done that to our satisfaction.”
Since January 2014, the city has had a contractual relationship with Paint Creek for coverage of Hillsboro for about $570,000 a year, whereas townships covered by the fire district are voting members under a plan that covers cost of membership through a 5.5 mill property tax. Until recently, the law allowed only nine voting members on a fire district board, but that provision no longer exists, clearing the way for Hillsboro to join like the townships. But a vote by council to join the district would bring with it the increase in property taxes just as the townships pay.
Hastings said he wants the matter resolved by the end of the year.
Council President Lee Koogler asked administrative assistant Debbie Sansone to add Paint Creek discussion to the agenda of the previously scheduled Oct. 20 public hearing, and to schedule another hearing on the matter for Monday, Nov. 6.
Additional discussion will be held at council’s next regular meeting on Nov. 14, Koogler said, as well as a possible council vote.
Hastings added in his report that the city is still communicating with Paint Creek regarding the purchase of the North East Street firehouse.
In other business, Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie said he will not authorize a permit for the 2018 Festival of the Bells to be held in the uptown area, where it has been held most years, saying a “majority” of uptown business owners have told him they either have to close up shop during the holiday weekend or otherwise experience slow business.
For further coverage of these and other issues in city council, check back Wednesday at www.timesgazette.com and Thursday’a print edition.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.