Hamilton takes steps to help proposed Spooky Nook sports complex

Construction-start goal for the facility: fall of 2018

City Council took two steps Wednesday toward fostering development along both shorelines of the Great Miami River.

First, officials approved the transfer, for $1, of three properties required by the proposed Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill mega-indoor sports complex. The three parcels, whose acreage total was not immediately available, will go to the Hamilton Community Improvement Corporation before this year ends.

By the fall of 2018, the goal is to start construction on the Spooky Nook facility to maximize use of federal historic tax credits that were altered under the federal tax bill approved this week by Congress.

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The three properties involved are Champion’s former Mill 2, its administration building and its far-west rectangular building. Other parts of the project would not qualify for tax credits because they have been altered too much, City Manager Joshua Smith said.

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The city has an agreement with the CIC allowing the transfer of property in cases where the property’s use will be positive for Hamilton citizens, such as by providing jobs or stabilizing the economy. Under the agreement, such transactions with the economic-development entity can happen without a bidding process. However, if the CIC eventually sells a property for a price higher than what it paid city government, the city must pay the higher amount to the city, minus costs and expenses the CIC has paid in connection with the properties.

According to a report to council from Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson, “it has been proposed that the city transfer ownership of these parcels under review for the Historic Tax Credit designation now in order to be eligible under the 2017 Historic Tax Credit program guidelines.”

Smith said the tax code changes under the federal tax bill will affect the Spooky Nook by eliminating about $1 million in tax breaks, or less than 1 percent of the project.

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Smith spoke this week with Spooky Nook officials and said, “They’re doing everything in their power to move forward. They understand that 2018 is a make-or-break year for them, and that we have to have this facility under construction … to take advantage of the tax credits over the five-year phase-out.

“To maximize what they can, we need to have that under construction. By the fall of 2018, it should be under construction. That is everybody’s goal at this point.”

Second, the council approved a six-month development moratorium along the Great Miami River. The moratorium, Smith explained to several concerned citizens, also is prompted by the Spooky Nook project.

City officials, as in earlier meetings, emphasized to worried property owners that there is no effort to force anybody to sell land within the moratorium area, which runs along both shores of the Great Miami River almost the entire length of the city.

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A significant reason for the moratorium is to prevent new buildings being built near the proposed Spooky Nook complex that could negatively impact that facility, such as by blocking a possible entrance, Smith said.

For those wanting to modify houses or commercial buildings during the six months — or add garages or sheds — that will be allowed, Smith said. But for someone wanting to build a convenience store on vacant land, for example, that could not happen during the six months.

Riverfront-area resident Bob Harris urged the city to keep people within the riverfront area informed every step of the way.

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