Ross Twp. creates special tax district for new development

A special tax district will be created to pay future infrastructure and other improvements on land that will eventually house a United Dairy Farmers store in downtown Ross Twp.

The township and UDF reached a $600,000 deal in April to build where the old Venice Castle restaurant once stood. The trustees last week established a TIF — tax increment financing district — to garner cash for future infrastructure and other capital improvements. The TIF term is for 10 years.

TIF districts are an economic development tool that many townships, cities and counties use to encourage new investment in an area.

A district typically surrounds a parcel or group of parcels — in this case two land parcels — and enables the taxpayers within it to make payments into a special fund in an amount equal to their property tax liability for the life of the TIF.

These payments, in lieu of taxes, are used by the local governments to retire debt incurred for the infrastructure improvements — such as roads and water and sewer lines — needed to support current and future development in the area of the TIF.

Ross Twp. officials are not sure yet how much money the TIF will generate.

The money could be used for a host of improvements in that area — streets, sidewalks and bike paths — and even the purchase of a fire truck service calls increase, according to Township Administrator Bob Bass.

“The public improvements are necessary for the further development of the parcels of land, for the creation of jobs, increasing property values and the provision of adequate public services in Ross Twp.,” according to an resolution authorizing the TIF. “The further development of the parcels in the Ross Twp. UDF TIF Fund will place direct additional demand on the public improvements.”

Kim Meeker, who manages the BP gas station across the street from the future UDF gas station and ice cream shop, said she isn’t sure how she feels about the new business.

She said with a Flub's ice cream shop also in town, UDF shakes and cones may not be in high demand. A nice sit down restaurant is what she'd like to see.

“Ross is a small town … and we already have three gas stations and Flub’s is here down the street, so I don’t know if it’s going to be a good thing or a bad thing. There’s a lot of people happy about it, but I’m still kind of on the fence about it.”

Bass said they will close on the property with UDF in July and he expects construction to start soon after.

Ross Local Schools Superintendent Greg Young said while the trustees have full control over the TIF fund, they have assured him the schools will not be harmed by the siphoned off tax dollars.

“Based on the proposal from the Ross Twp. trustees I believe their intent is to hold the schools harmless,” Young said. “In other words they plan to make payments from the TIF fund to the schools, based on the amount of taxes that would have been collected from the property.”

The township unveiled its Venice Downtown Redevelopment plan, a blueprint for future development, in February. The plan envisions the houses being redeveloped into offices for professionals such as lawyers and accountants as well as retail shops, restaurants and possibly some park/recreation area.

The township spent $193,893 to buy the Castle property, clear it and fill in the flood plain. UDF will pay the estimated $18,000 cost to tear down the house on the second parcel.

When the UDF deal was sealed, Trustee Ellen Yordy said it marked a good start to the township’s long-range plan.

“We’re looking for some smart growth coming into Ross,” she said. “The thing of it is, UDF will be a tax base for us, it’s just not houses coming into Ross. That’ll help people with taxes and the schools and everything like that. So it’s all the big picture that this means.”