Middletown closer to building new subdivision homes at Sawyer’s Mill

The next step in the efforts to build out the Sawyer’s Mill development in Middletown are underway as a public hearing was held to create a new Tax Increment Financing incentive district to help pay for needed infrastructure improvements.

Middletown City Council held a public hearing at its Sept. 3 council meeting to create a new TIF incentive district for nearly 25 acres on the east side of the Sawyer’s Mill development. No one, including the lone property owner, appeared before council to speak in favor or in opposition to the proposal.

The proposed TIF incentive district would require each property owner to pay a service payment in lieu of taxes that would go into a fund for approved infrastructure improvements. The amount would be equal to the property tax owed, and 100 percent of the payment would go to the TIF district fund for 30 years, according to the proposal.

City Manager Doug Adkins told council that this will allow another 16 to 17 homes to be constructed at the development.

The proposal will now go to the matter will be heard at the city Planning Commission meeting on Sept. 11 which will be in addition to a zoning change from commercial to residential. Those recommendations will go back to council in early November for final approval.

TIF incentive districts are an economic development mechanism available to local governments in Ohio to finance public infrastructure improvements. according to a report from Economic Development Director Jennifer Ekey.

She said only those public infrastructure improvements directly serving the increased demand arising from the real property improvements to the parcels or an incentive district are eligible for TIF financing.

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Ekey said the new TIF will work in concert with the existing Sawyer’s Mill TIF after it’s amended to provide some funding for the public infrastructure needed for the development.

In 2016, the city was approached by Republic Development, the developer of the Sawyer’s Mill subdivision at the time, to reengage in a conversation about development.

City officials said the property had been through a lengthy and acrimonious court battle, ending in a consent decree, which stalled any new development. Republic had been talking to Ryan Homes, which had an interest in Middletown. After 2 1/2 years of meetings, negotiations with three different developers, and a new consent decree, city officials said there is now a path to move forward on the build out of this subdivision.

Construction of model homes could begin later this fall with new home building beginning in 2020. The price range for the new homes will be between $150,000 and $220,000.

Last month, council approved in a 4-1 vote to waive 50 percent of the water and sewer tap-in fees in an effort to spur the development. The city will now waive $2,500 for each tap-in to make the new homes more viable financially for Ryan Homes and the homeowners. In exchange, the houses to be built will have brick and/or stone materials on the front elevation.

Councilman Joe Mulligan voted against the tap-in waiver, saying that it was “a bad deal for the city of Middletown.”

He said the city could have gotten the exteriors it wanted without the waivers, adding the city needed to be tougher in negotiations.”

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