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Cooper Progress Park

MOUNT VERNON — City Council gave a first reading Monday night to an ordinance that creates a new zoning category for the city.

The new designation is a Planned Commercial Development District (PCDD). While the impetus for creating PCDD zoning is Cooper Progress Park, Jeff Gottke, president of the Area Development Foundation, told council that the city can also apply it to a second industrial park if it were to create one.

“This is not a Cooper Park code,” he said. “It's a planned commercial development code that we will apply to Cooper.”

Gottke said Cooper Progress Park is a known property with an unknown demand. The objective is the highest and best use of the park, which he said is “abundant manufacturing jobs.”

The goal of the PCDD zoning is “flexibility so that we can quickly meet the needs of the companies when they walk in the door.” Gottke said that includes flexibility of space as well as uses.

The park will operate under a Homeowners Association. Each building in the park is a separate parcel; the rest will be common area. Gottke said the PCDD zoning allows for quick and efficient approvals by the HOA for companies interested in locating in the park.

Permitted uses include light manufacturing and general business. General business ranges from retail shops to health care to professional offices.

“We want to try and capture a multitude of uses,” Gottke said.

The new zoning is not open to every type of business, however. Businesses such as paper mills with odors, a munitions or fireworks factory, and companies involved with chemical and petroleum products are not permitted.

“The association will narrow those things down,” Gottke said.

The first step is council approving the PCDD zoning. The second is applying the code to the existing parcels in Cooper Progress Park.

The third step is approving a site plan and map. This has to wait until the HOA is formed and submits the documents to the city's Municipal Planning Commission. The commission will review the plan and map and make recommendations to council.

Community Reinvestment Area (CRA)

Gottke also updated council on the status of the proposed city-wide CRA. The CRA is geared mostly toward new construction, since the tax abatement is only on the new improved value of the structure. The CRA does not cover repairs such as new roofing or exterior painting.

Abatements in the proposed CRA could be 50%, 75%, or 100% depending on the type of investment and the location. Developer Joel Mazza previously requested a 15-year, 100% abatement on the former school at 301 N. Mulberry St.

At council's Aug. 10 meeting, Mazza told council that development was halted pending the city's decision on the CRA.

Gottke said that after meeting with the school board last week, board members are receptive to the CRA.

“They understand that housing is an economic problem. They also understand it's a problem for them getting their new teachers,” he said.

Gottke said the discussion included the following points:

•The board thought a 100% abatement is a little too much. Gottke said the ADF will re-look at models and see what effect different abatement levels will have, especially for multi-family developers.

•The Coshocton Avenue TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District will expire soon. When it does, 75% of the money going into the fund, around $500,000 a year, will go to the schools. Gottke pointed out that revenue will help offset revenue loss through a CRA.

•Increased housing, and thus property taxes, could reduce the amount residents are paying through the school's emergency levy.

•School officials are concerned about overcrowding on the city's east side since Wiggin Street and East Elementary are already at capacity. The discussion included targeting the CRA outside of the Wiggin Street/East Elementary areas.

•School officials want to make sure the CRA creates quality housing.

Gottke said that he spoke with an attorney, and they are ready to write the CRA legislation. He will have legislation ready for council's next meeting. Councilman Mike Hillier, chair of the Planning and Zoning Committee, emphasized that the legislation will receive three readings and include a public hearing.

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