The conversation surrounding the potential establishment of a New Community Authority (NCA) for the Terra Alta development, located east of Pollock Road and North of Braumiller Road, continued with a public hearing at Monday’s Delaware City Council meeting. Attorney David Fisher and the Terra Alta development team first proposed the NCA to council with a presentation at the June 25 council meeting.
Preliminary plans for the Terra Alta development were first approved in 2008. Site and lot development have begun, with house construction starting soon. According to the developer’s NCA petition, 2,250 residents are expected to reside in Terra Alta when the site is fully constructed.
An NCA puts a charge on residents’ property taxes that will help pay for infrastructure within the development, typically infrastructure that will be developed in the future. The development team is seeking the NCA to both reimburse themselves for amenities that have already been constructed and for amenities that are still to be constructed.
“There’s still a lot to be done, and there’s still a lot of money to be spent to get this done and bring the vision to reality for the city at the level we would like to bring it,” said David Fisher, of Kephart Fisher Attorneys, during the June presentation. “And that’s really what this is about … we want to emphasize for you that for us and the city to both enjoy this as best-of-class for everyone involved, we’re going to need some help.”
Among the amenities the developer is seeking to be reimbursed for through the NCA are community pools, a clubhouse, enhanced entrance features, a roundabout on Braumiller Road, walking trails, and trees along the streets.
In the original petition, the development team was seeking a 7.5-mill charge for each property, which would add a 75 cent charge per every $1,000 of assessed property value to the property tax bill. The developer has since come down on that number, saying they would be willing to accept a 5.5-mill charge. Under this scenario, 5 mills would go toward reimbursing the developer and 0.5 mills would be paid to the city for improvements to the river frontage along the stretch of the Olentangy River adjacent to the development.
City Manager Tom Homan suggested the millage rate be 4 or below to “keep the charge in the $500 to $600 range per year on a $400,000 home.”
He added, “That, combined with the Home Owners Association fee, puts the annual cost to a homeowner close to $1,000. That’s an additional cost, I know these are improvements that are benefiting the neighborhood, and I think that is a plus. But I think that’s one of the other things you need to keep in mind, making sure that burden isn’t so onerous that it comes back and we have to face it in the future when we have to do levies.”
Homan said there were multiple concerns for the city in regard to the potential NCA and how it would be received in the community. He pointed out the confusion expressed by many residents who were unsure of what the additional charge was, while also saying the margin in which the 2016 road levy failed was impacted by residents in the southwest area, where current NCAs exist, who, otherwise, had shown support in the past for levies but did not support the road levy.
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer downplayed the impact of those residents on the failure of the levy, pointing out the levy failed by 60 percent. “We need to weight this on its own merits,” he said. “Does it make sense for the city, does it make sense for the people living there to do this?”
Attorney Greg Stype, who has worked with many of the NCAs created throughout central Ohio over the past 30 years, reminded council the original millage rate asked was well above the 7.5 mills included in the petition, saying, “7.5 mills compared to most community authorities that are for decent or large-scale residential developments is actually a lower threshold.”
He went on to say the reason no houses have been built yet has a lot to do with how much a community authority generates and what the developer can afford to put into those houses.
Unlike the two other NCAs associated with the construction of Glenn Parkway, which were initiated by the city and will dissolve when the expenses for the road have been recouped, the Terra Alta NCA does not have a definitive end date.
Questioned by Councilwoman Lisa Keller about the timeline of the NCA, Stype said the millage will stay at the approved rate “long enough for the capital improvement costs to be paid back” with the millage rate dropping down to “a level that is required for simple maintenance” afterward.
Stype, responding to a question from Keller about how it would be made known when those capital improvement costs had been fully reimbursed, reiterated the governing body of the NCA would consist of seven members, four of which are appointed by the city and three which would represent the developer, and that no action could be taken without the majority of the present representatives being those who were city-appointed.
Asked about the 5.5-mill rate proposed and what the rate would mean for the developer, Fisher called it a “squeeze” and said they would not be able to recover all the costs of the project as it sits today, with even more costs sure to come as it progresses.
While the developers have pushed the importance of the NCA and millage rate to the overall quality of the development, Councilman George Hellinger balked at the notion developers would drastically change the quality of their product, stating, “No, you’re not, because nobody would buy them.”
Jennifer Popham, a Realtor and former Delaware resident who now lives in Powell, took part in the public hearing to voice her support of the NCA.
“There is nothing for someone who is looking for a move-up home and wants to stay in Delaware … if you can find that one property, you have to buy something with acreage, and if you want just a small yard, there isn’t one single thing available,” she said. “So, I think there is a desperate need for the development.”
Popham went on to say the NCA would also benefit potential homeowners by lowering the cost of homes in the development. Speaking from experience, she also downplayed the idea residents could be rightfully confused about the millage rate being added to their property taxes, saying the rates are explained more than once throughout the buying process.
Following discussions, Homan said he would follow up with the development team to work on getting the proposal back in front of council.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.