At Monday’s meeting of the Delaware County Board of Commissioners, four Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreements were approved. The TIFs will support several public infrastructure improvements, all of which will benefit the communities that make up the Olentangy Local School District (OLSD).
Last week, the OLSD Board of Education approved two of the TIFs, each at 20 years and 75 percent, ahead of the Board of Commissioners’ vote on Monday. One of these TIFs centers around the construction of the Evans Farm development, which began in 2016 in Lewis Center on Lewis Center Road.
Evans Farm is being billed as a 1,250-acre walkable community, featuring more than 2,000 single-family homes and nearly 1,000 more apartments. In addition to housing, Evans Farm will include a multitude of businesses, office space, and 350 acres of park and recreational space to create a true community feel.
Like any community, and especially for one of this potential scope, school access will be a pressing need for its residents. To solve that issue, the Olentangy BOE requested as part of its agreement that land is donated within Evans Farm for the purpose of building an elementary school.
During his presentation to the OLSD board last week, Delaware County Economic Development Director Bob Lamb said a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been established that will see to it that the developer donates 20 acres of “shovel-ready” land to the district for construction of a new school.
Renderings of the layout of Evans Farm show the school would have a centralized location within the community. Discussions on any details of the school have not taken place among board members at this time.
An ever-growing school district, the increase in enrollment and the need for more schools is a consistent balancing act for OLSD. Officials have stated that adding a school within Evans Farm to accommodate the residents to come is crucial to the district, as is the commercial development of the area.
BOE member Julie Wagner Feasel pointed out the importance of the commercial aspect of Evans Farm, pointing out the land where Evans Farm is being developed was once going to be all residential, ultimately meaning more children in the district. Feasel clarified that while the district enjoys adding more students, the district doesn’t enjoy the lack of funding it receives to educate them.
“Anytime we can bring commercial property value into the district, we’re ahead,” Wagner Feasel said.
Lamb reiterated the TIFs were only for the commercial area of development and would not affect the single-family residents.
“Both of these projects create a win-win scenario for the community,” Lamb told the board. “These were areas of land that were looking solely at residential development going forward, previously. And now we’ve been able to work with the developers and landowners to bring commercial uses forward on those sites.”
Homes are currently being built in Evans Farm, but the entire development isn’t expected to be fully built out until 2030.