Spooky Nook plans: Ross Twp. working to take advantage of Hamilton project

Ross Twp. is in the process of creating a joint economic development district (JEDD) ahead of development expected to filter down because of the massive Spooky Nook sports and convention complex under construction in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Ross Twp. is in the process of creating a joint economic development district (JEDD) ahead of development expected to filter down because of the massive Spooky Nook sports and convention complex under construction in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Ross Twp. is in the direct path from all parts west that might have families traveling to Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill, so trustees and Hamilton officials are partnering to ensure the township has funds for future infrastructure.

The township held a public hearing Thursday night on a new 120-acre joint economic development district (JEDD). Once developed, the vacant properties will provide income tax revenues to help pay for services and upgrading roads so there won’t be bottlenecked traffic once the massive sports complex and convention center opens in Hamilton.

The 1.3 million-square-foot Spooky Nook complex under construction in Hamilton is expected to draw crowds from around the region. Bob Bass, the former Ross Twp. administrator who is working as a development consultant for the township, called it “the gateway” from all points west.

“We’re in for some increased traffic and especially in the area of (Ohio) 128 and (Ohio) 126 to School Road, we’ve got a very congested area where a lot of the current houses and businesses sit very close to the roadway,” Bass said. “So widening is going to be very difficult and very expensive ... We needed to be a little proactive in how we were going to deal with that.”

Township Board President Tom Willsey said two people attended the public hearing, one of them a property owner in the proposed JEDD who asked that his small parcel be removed. Willsey said the owner has a contact to sell it, and inclusion in the special tax district could disrupt the sale.

He said officials are consulting their attorney to see if that is possible. Generally, the business community strongly supports the JEDD, he said, because development will strain the township’s ability to provide services like police and fire protection and road maintenance.

“The premise to all this is to not put the burden of future development on the current taxpayers in Ross Twp.” Willsey said. “Business should be able to develop on its own and not have to burden taxpayers. Every time a business opens that taxes our services more.”

Townships generally do not receive income tax revenues unless they partner with a municipality to form a JEDD. Bass said they cannot estimate possible revenues yet, but there are large tracts of vacant land ripe for development within the proposed area.

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Only vacant properties are included in the JEDD and only employees in new businesses will pay income taxes. The township’s cut is 95%, and Hamilton will collect the rest, plus an administrative fee for managing the taxes. The boundaries are Ohio 126 along Ohio 128 up to the Ross Schools complex.

“The 15 properties being looked at for this JEDD and only those properties will be subject to an income tax and a tax on the profits of any businesses that would spring up in those areas,” Bass said.

The township has been working with a developer to build a huge mixed use development on the 350-acre Burns farm on the north side of Ohio 128. Bass said he can’t divulge any information about the plans but if all goes as planned construction could begin next year.

Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said Ross is well situated to attract new development with its proximity to major roadways, regardless of Spooky Nook. He said if hotels are eventually part of the development plan it would certainly help the city.

Spooky Nook has a sister facility outside Lancaster, Pa. and officials often draw comparisons between the two. Smith said last weekend for the Pennsylvania complex they had to book 3,800 hotel rooms, in Hamilton there are only 120 rooms.

“With the highway frontage they are already well situated,” Smith said. “It is good for the city because if they build any hotels the hotels will be part of the Hamilton Community Authority so the additional sales or hotel tax would go to help pay the parking bonds for Spooky Nook. But really it’s just a pretty straight forward JEDD and it’s just a partnership.”