Warren County agrees to $1M tax break for assisted living in Lebanon

Warren County is expected to grant a $1 million tax break to an Indiana company planning a $30 million assisted-living development in Lebanon.

On Tuesday, the county commissioners gave the go-ahead, a week after urging Lebanon officials to consider setting up an enterprise zone for the project.

Ohio law permits larger cities to form enterprise zones, but not those the size of Lebanon, according to officials.

“In this instance, the county would be the only entity,” Matt Schnipke, director of the county’s economic development department, said.

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The development is expected to include a 142-unit assisted living complex, including 30 units for memory care, and employ 65 workers. Drawings also show 13 homes for independent living.

Schnipke is next expected to meet with officials from the Leo Brown Group and the City of Lebanon to complete legal work for a 10-year, 50-percent abatement on a $10.5 million assisted living-memory care building in the development.

On Tuesday, staff from the developer, county and city were joined by Tom Cloud of the Schueler Group in the presentation to the commissioners.

Schueler manages the 18-acre site, just south of the Franklin Road-Ohio 123 intersection with Neil Armstrong Way, for a syndicate of 20 owners, including Chairman and CEO Mike Schueler, Cloud said.

Even with the abatement, the development should generate $250,000 a year in additional property tax, City Manager Scott Brunka told the commissioners.

Because the residents would be elderly, no students would be added to the local school district, unlike from residential subdivisions for which the land is currently zoned, Brunka added.

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Commissioner Dave Young said he favored a new business over a residential development and supported the tax break to “help get the project across the finish line.”

The development would be the latest since the section of Neil Armstrong Way, leading off Ohio 123 down to Ohio 63, was completed.

Otterbein’s main retirement campus is four miles away from the Traditions of Lebanon site in Turtlecreek Twp.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Tom Grossmann asked about whether the deal would favor the developer over competitors, such as Otterbein SeniorLife.

“Faith-based, not-for-profit, Otterbein has been here for 107 years (and counting), provides a much wider array of services, and have added value, new buildings, services and residents throughout the last decade,” Gary Horning, vice president of marketing and communications for Otterbein, said in response to questions after the first meeting.

Bill Morton, vice president of development for the Leo Brown Group, said a market study supported the development.

“We’re comparable, not competitive,” Morton said Tuesday.

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While Otterbein is nearby, Brunka said, “This is something we don’t have in Lebanon.”

A week ago, the commissioners said they were not ready to approve the the tax incentive sought by the city on behalf of the developer.

“I’d be happy to look at this if the city of Lebanon can’t do this,” Grossmann said, in comments echoed by the other two commissioners.

A week ago, Brunka told the commissioners the city council and staff saw the project as a new amenity for residents.

“We see this as an opportunity for our residents to stay in the city of Lebanon,” he said.

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