The West Chester Twp. trustees have signed a preliminary agreement pledging up to $19.2 million in TIF funding to help facilitate the $265 million mixed-use NorthPoint development east of Interstate 75.
The preliminary plans call for retail, restaurants, entertainment, a hotel, corporate offices, 870 multi-family residential and a public park and trail system on 99 acres that run along the east fork of the Mill Creek.
The project, which sits between Union Centre Boulevard and West Chester Road, is being co-developed by Dillin Corp. and Brooks Creek Development, Dillin was also involved in the Austin Landing development near Dayton.
Township Administrator Larry Burks told the trustees Tuesday the non-binding memorandum of understanding will allow the developer to proceed with engineering and design plans knowing the trustees intend to help. He said the agreement does not release funds, that will require further trustee action.
“The project sits in a prime location with direct access to Interstate 75 but due to geographic challenges the property remains undeveloped despite the township’s rapid growth,” Burks said. “In order for this difficult site to develop substantial investment is need to address storm water and flood plain concerns the cost of addressing these issues is significant.”
The agreement outlines that the $19.2 million in tax increment funding (TIF) will be released in stages as the development unfolds. The first allocation is for $7.3 million for park creation and storm water remediation.
“Remember with TIF, there’s always a payback,” Trustee Mark Welch said. “We’re not giving free money over to a developer, there’s a return on the investment, it’s paid back over a number of years with the improved valuation of the property.”
Dillin has also been in negotiations with the Beckett Ridge Homeowners Association to possibly build a retention pond on a vacant, wooded pocket of land on the north side if West Chester Road to help mitigate the flood plain.
Welch called out the HOA during the meeting for “dragging their feet” on approving the plan because there are people who don’t want the giant development across the street. In exchange for the use of HOA land they are asking for a list projects, several of which have little or nothing to do with the project at hand.
“We know why that park would be a good addition up there for the Beckett Ridge Homeowners Association, I personally think it would actually increase the value of those properties along there,” Welch said. “Any of these situations you have the people who are kind of NIMBYs and naysayers and no matter what you come up with they’re not happy.”
Aaron Horn, development coordinator for Dillin, said they can move forward and mitigate the flooding problem on their own property without the HOA’s participation, “it wouldn’t hold up the project or project timing.”
Burks said this is a chance for the HOA to solve its own issues.
“Right now there’s an opportunity for the Beckett Ridge Homeowners Association to have this problem alleviated to some extent, have an amenity for the community, and them to have it maintained by the business owners association that will be se up when the Dillin development is finished,” Burks said. “So there is no cost to them other than saying yes.”
Welch said the HOA is asking for things like speed bumps and some other things that aren’t relevant to the project. He suggested they give the HOA until their next meeting on Feb. 15 to approve the plan.
“I agree,” Trustee Lee Wong said. “The replacement of playground equipment and a new gazebo, what does it have to do with this... This is a win-win for the HOA and this has been an ongoing discussion for a long time, it has to come to a resolution.”
HOA Board President Adam Lane spoke up at the meeting and said Welch has “exaggerated” some of the facts like the time it has taken to negotiate. He agreed the process has been in works for 18 months but Dillin was out of contact for six or eight of those months. He said some people are unhappy about change but that hasn’t slowed the process.
“Emotions are very, very high so the representation of us dragging our feet I think is wildly exaggerated and quite unfair actually,” Lane said. “We went into this negotiation in good faith. I do think it’s a good thing for the neighborhood, many of the residents think it’s a good thing, however there is a lot to be talked about.”
Lane told the Journal-News they never presented a formal list of demands to Dillin or the township, he said the conversation has been about the value of the land they want to use. He wouldn’t give a price tag.
“I can’t say at this point because we’re in the middle of negotiations but what I proposed was way under the actual value the developer or the township would get out of it,” Lane said.
The trustees didn’t set a definitive deadline but Welch said “there is a time by which any kind of negotiations with Beckett Ridge expires.”