Joe Motil
The following would have been presented as my public testimony in regards to the OSU  40% city income tax break for  25 consecutive years  in consideration of creating 12,000 net full-time jobs. Unfortunately due to the length of last night's meeting I was not able to stay for until almost 11pm to testify. I hope you will take the time to read my comments:          

It seems like whenever you open the newspaper these days, either the city of Columbus, State of Ohio or Jobs Ohio is giving in to developers, major corporations and institutions that are swimming in cash to help fatten their profit margins. And at a time when our city income revenue is at a premium, yet another local entity with political influence, power and money is asking for charity. It’s bad enough that this City Council has given away millions in city income tax revenues, revenues that make up nearly 80% of our general funds budget to the likes of Ohio Health, Root Insurance, CoverMyMeds, Nationwide Insurance, Huntington Bank, The OSU Wexner Medical Center, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and U.S. Bank. None of which are falling into hard times and need a dime of financial assistance.    

And giving unnecessary city income tax breaks at a time when our city auditor is projecting a 6.34% reduction in income tax revenues for next year and due to the fact that work-from-home is now a reality, additional loss of city revenues could be more than $117 million. Yet a recent story in the Columbus Dispatch told of a soccer club in the Hilltop area that can’t get a mere $350,000 to build an indoor soccer space that will help keep kids off the streets from joining gangs, getting into drugs and other criminal activities. But we are giving away city income tax revenue.   

Ohio State University has an endowment of $6.8 billion which is one of the largest in the world. And Ohio State's continuation of building on every inch of student activity space it can find without replacing it is neglectful and irresponsible. They spent millions of dollars on outdoor playing fields at the southwest corner of King and Cannon Drive which have been gone for several years now and now more recently the playing fields and basketball courts have been removed for profit to develop the Innovation District. An outdoor hockey rink near the southwest corner of Lane and High was also removed and never replaced by OSU. No doubt the next to go will be the OSU Ag program and student farmland along Lane Avenue just to the north of the Innovation center. They will probably justify the redevelopment of that land by claiming that getting rid of some dairy cattle will result in a reduction of methane gas into the atmosphere. Yet they build a new gas burning power plant instead of building or buying clean energy.

So rather than plan and replace the acres and acres of outdoor activity space they have removed for profit, OSU does a behind the scenes land grab of Tuttle Park attempting to disguise it as a partnership with the city and the Cleveland Browns. When in fact if the deal would have gone through, the powerful OSU would have had complete control over the everyday use of a public park that belongs to the citizens of Columbus. And then there is the inevitable demolition of Buckeye Village that has provided inexpensive family and grad student housing for decades. What is their plan to replace that housing?

This TIF and income tax incentive deal should be held off until officials at Ohio State can get their act together and start addressing the social, environmental, and recreational needs of its university with detailed plans, rather than putting profit before people.   The following would have been my second public testimony  related to the entering into a Housing Development Agreement with OSU on the site of the Innovation District that is expected to create 1,500-2,000 residential units. 10% of the units created must be set aside for 80% AMI:

Because this Housing Development Agreement is not a CRA, thus does not apply to the current CRA criteria, why is OSU getting away without providing at least 10% set asides at 60% AMI  for any of its 1,500 – 2,000 residential units? Especially due to the creation of 100,000-200,000 square feet of retail, a 180-220 bed hotel, 500,000 square feet of medical facilities and 4-6 million square feet and lab and commercial office space. This is another excellent opportunity to create housing for the hundreds of service workers whose income are at $35,220 or 60% AMI who will be working in these facilities and could live within walking distance of their workplace. Something that all affordable housing advocates prioritize. This agreement should also spell out that three-bedroom residential units should be constructed as well that will provide for families. Not just more predominantly studio, one- and two-bedroom units.

And maybe  Nationwide Children’s Hospital, who is investing $350 million in the OSU Innovation District, and who is constructing a $3 billion-dollar 12.3-acre expansion of its own, will take note of OSU’s residential component of this Innovation District development project and incorporate affordable housing into its own expansion project for the hundreds of lower wage service workers they employ at Children’s Hospital, so that they can walk to work.  

The residential units being constructed at the Innovation District should not be considered as alternative housing for the decades-long affordable housing that has been provided by OSU for students with families and grad students at Buckeye Village, which is slated to be completely demolished. The rents that have been charged for that housing is well below the rents that will be charged in any of these new residential buildings at the Innovation District. In 2018, according to a July 2021 OSU Lantern article, rents at Buckeye Village for a one-bedroom were $535 and a two-bedroom unit was $675. It should also be spelled out in this agreement that OSU must commit to  devising a detailed plan as to how they are going to continue with this affordable housing program that has been in existence since the 1950’s. Once again, OSU needs to put people before profits.  

I have also attached a story I wrote which was published in the Columbus Free Press which is related to the first zoning ordinance read last night, 3138-2020 for 50 East 7th Avenue. Unfortunately I did not know it was on the agenda until yesterday afternoon or I would have spoke against it. I hope you will take the time to read it. Please contact me if you have any questions or comments and enjoy the holidays.  

High Density High End Housing - Instead of Family-Friendly Affordable Housing - At Any Cost