Developer plans $4.5M project in Middletown industrial park

While the coronavirus has hampered businesses for the past few months, Middletown City Council on Tuesday approved a tax abatement and a small business grant.

Council approved an initial five-year Enterprise Zone Agreement to Knust Properties LLC for the development of two speculative buildings on six acres at the Greentree Industrial Park.

David Knust of Knust Properties LLC owns several industrial buildings in Monroe and purchased the property at 4640 Emerald Way, which had one existing building that he continues to rent to Ventilex USA.

City officials said Knust has since split the original property into two and wants to invest $4.5 million to build the new speculative buildings, one at 50,000 square feet, and the other at 56,000 square feet. Knust requested emergency passage so construction can begin this season.

In her staff report, Alaina Geres, economic development program manager, said the terms are five years at 75%. However, if Knust is able to secure a tenant for each building with a minimum payroll of $750,000 — about 25 employees with an average salary of $30,000 —before this incentive expires, the project would be eligible for an additional five-year term.

Tenants must be engaged in manufacturing, research & development, warehousing or distribution activities as well as other architectural and facade requirements.

If the payroll is more than $1 million per building, the city will be required to pay Middletown City Schools 33% of what they would have received if the abatement had not been in place.

Small business development grant approved

Council also approved a $10,000 small business economic development grant for White Dog Distilling Company to be used for the purchase of their building at 1357 Central Ave. that was previously the location of Liberty Spirits. The owners are under a land contract to purchase the building by 2023.

City officials said White Dog pivoted its business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic to produce hand sanitizer and sold it to many local businesses and people and provided it to public safety agencies.

The business will need to complete the purchase by Dec. 31, 2023 or will be required to return the grant funding to the city.

In addition, White Dog will need to add two full-time employees to their current staffing of one full-timer and two part-time employees.

Council also:

Approved $150,000 for outside legal services for the Law Division and Economic Development Department. Susan Cohen, administrative services director, said the outside legal services budgets have been depleted due to on-going projects and litigation which are far and above law director services provided by Ben Yoder of Frost Brown Todd.

Approved amendments to the three-year collective bargaining agreement between the city and AFSCME Local 856, the public works union, that will merge Local 856 with Local 856-A, which now represented the Transit Division. For the past few years, the transit union has went down from four members to one member. Contract changes include: hours of work; holidays; a uniform increase of $100 a year; a wage increase of 2.5 percent increase a year; other leaves; and drug/alcohol testing. The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2019 and expires June 30, 2022.

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