Monroe City Council and a developer are at odds over a proposed $45 million to $50 million construction of two buildings that would create about 850 jobs and an annual payroll of $30 million. The proposed project may be in jeopardy as some council members are opposed to more warehouses and logistics buildings in the city. Both buildings, at 210,000 square-feet and 750,000 square-feet, are proposed to be constructed on 117 acres south of the Cincinnati Premium Outlet mall near the Interstate 75/Ohio 63 interchange. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF Monroe City Council rejected two zoning request changes to light industrial districts. Council members raised concerns about the number of warehouse being constructed in the past few years and preferred to see other development along Interstate 75. The 117 acre section on the east side of I-75 just south of Cincinnati premium outlets had a proposed zoning change from general commercial to light industrial use rejected. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Monroe officials ‘underwhelmed’ by proposals for what could be $50M development

Bob Laughlin of Peregrine Property Group is seeking to build the buildings on 117 acres that was rezoned last spring back to light industrial:

• A 210,000 square-foot building that would create 300 jobs and an estimated payroll of $13.5 million a year

• A 750,000 square-foot building that would create 500 to 550 jobs with an estimated payroll of $16.5 million a year.

MORE: Despite concerns about warehouses, Monroe approves changes for land near I-75

In an email exchange earlier this week between Laughlin and Jennifer Patterson, assistant to the city manager/economic development, Patterson updated Laughlin on the feedback by Monroe City Council during its executive session discussion at its Tuesday council meeting.

Patterson told Laughlin that most of council’s feedback “was specifically targeted to the request for TIF (Tax Increment Financing) funds and the job/payroll commitments.” She also said council does not support the use of TIF funds for road construction.

MORE: Too many warehouses? Monroe rejects requests for land near Cincinnati Premium Outlets

“A CRA (Community Reinvestment Area tax abatement) at 50% for 10 years is not out of the question, but they were underwhelmed with the payroll/jobs as presented,” she said. “They are looking to focus incentives on projects that more closely reflect or even improve upon recent projects such as the Kroger project, which had substantially higher wages than what was presented last night. They also have a preference to know the end user for all incentivized projects.”

CRA tax abatements are used to promote new construction or the rehabilitation of residential, commercial or industrial structures.

“I understand that this may be an opportunity to regroup and determine if it makes sense to move forward on the site,” she said. “If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

Messages for comment were left for Patterson and City Manager Bill Brock.

MORE: Monroe looking at changes for undeveloped I-75 land near Cincinnati Premium Outlets

In his response, Laughlin said he “was disappointed to hear council was ‘underwhelmed’ by the Development Proposal.”

Laughlin said he thought TIF funding was to created to accomplish road building and thought completion of Gateway Boulevard was a priority.

“Council seems to think that industrial development and the doling out of tax abatements represents some kind of zero-sum game that subtracts from opportunities and revenues from Monroe’s finite crockpot,” he said. “I submit that these opportunities and tax base would otherwise not exist. Given the city’s recent reputation as a difficult place to do business (look at the thank-you Kroger/Ocado received for its ‘tax breaks for billionaires off the backs of taxpayers’). What company would go through the time and trouble without some sense of certainty?”

MORE: Monroe vice mayor: ‘Kroger doesn’t need a tax break on the backs of taxpayers’

Laughlin said “Council seems very condescending in general towards logistics employment (otherwise good jobs for low-skilled citizens). What infrastructure does Monroe have in place (educational or otherwise) to attract desired hi-tech unicorns?”

He said their development stands ready to serve as a catalyst for improvements now.

Developer Lenny Robinson, who owns the land south of mall, said that area was originally zoned industrial in the 1940s and was rezoned to commercial in the late 1999 for a 1.4 million square-foot mall project led by Taubman Company. However, after September 2001, the retail sector took a severe downturn, and Taubman dropped their option in 2003, he said.

In the past few months, council members have questioned the number of logistics and warehouse facilities coming to Monroe and seeking tax abatements.

Vice Mayor Dan Clark and Councilman Todd Hickman have voted against several rezoning requests in recent months. Both council members have said Monroe has enough warehouses and would prefer to see other businesses that pay employees higher salaries.

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