More than 30 people gathered Friday evening at the Highland County Justice Center to hear from an economic development specialist about two Downtown Redevelopment Districts being considered by Hillsboro City Council.
DRDs, first created in state legislation last year, are an economic development tool to incentivize property owners in an established 10-acre area to improve their properties by redirecting a portion of their property taxes back into the area.
Nate Green, an economic development specialist with the Montrose Group of Columbus, fielded questions from the public regarding the proposed DRDs, one of which would be for uptown Hillsboro, and the other for the former site of Union Stockyards and some of the surrounding properties.
Green said five cities and villages in Ohio have created such districts, which redirect a portion of property tax revenues when the value is increased because of property improvements, back into the district, in turn allowing a steering committee to offer loans and other services to those who opt to join the district.
Green said there will be no tax increases, and the district will only generate revenue if property owners improve their properties. The portion that goes to the district is only from the increased property taxes of the improvement, not on the whole property.
According to Green, Canton was one of the first cities to establish a DRD, and its goal was to provide revenue to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for improvements and renovations.
Portsmouth has established four DRDs, according to Green.
“It’s a great tool,” he said, adding that while several have been established, most are still too early in the process to give feedback.
Green said the two DRDs being considered for Hillsboro could bring several million dollars to the area over the next 15-20 years if the districts are utilized.
Hastings said the “Stockyards DRD” is a prime location for a hotel, although he said he has had no official conversations with property owners in the area about constructing one.
Green answered several questions simply by saying the particulars of DRDs are often established by city council, and later between the operating committee and property owners.
“This is really a starting point,” Green said.
Conversation stayed mostly informative as a number of citizens asked questions, including former county commissioner and sheriff Tom Horst, former county commissioner candidate Alex Butler, and Ward 2 council candidate Jason Burns.
Former city auditor Rosemary Ryan seemed critical of the idea, saying Bell’s Opera House, which is set to be a primary focus of the uptown DRD because of its historic status, should be exempt from the district since it is owned by Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings, as well as any other properties owned by those holding public office. Hastings said later in the meeting he will divest interest in the opera house, following guidelines set forth in an opinion from Law Director Fred Beery.
Council member Ann Morris, who owns property in the proposed uptown DRD, said she would abstain from voting on the matter.
Area resident Jim Matticks was also critical of the idea, and said he hopes it isn’t approved. He said he feels the old Parker House building should be renovated instead of the opera house.
Koogler said another meeting will be held for public comment on Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. in the municipal courtroom at the Highland County Justice Center.
At its most recent meeting, council heard a first reading on the matter.
According to Green, legislation establishing DRDs in other corporations passed unanimously.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.