Buildings and words Big Development

Joe Motil's public testimony given at October 12 Columbus City Council meeting regarding the creation of a Northeast Community Reinvestment Area:


The creation of this Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) reeks of the same special treatment and sole purpose of giving a favored developer a tax abatement while trying to disguise it as a tool to encourage development in a risk-free area of Columbus. This CRA is similar to those given to luxury real estate developers Wagenbrenner for creating a CRA at the Quarry and Grandview Crossing and Preferred Living for the Kenny & Henderson CRA. All three are located in risk free development areas and were established for the sole purpose of providing developers an unnecessary 15-year 100% tax abatement for their new housing projects.   

Metro Parks spent $12 million of taxpayers money to benefit the Quarry development. And millions more in property taxes will be paid out by the public over the years to maintain this taxpayer paid amenity for this developer. But virtually no property taxes will be paid by this developer and dozens of others throughout Columbus that don't pay their fair share of property taxes.

The Grandview CRA is prime real estate that is adjacent to the affluent suburb of Grandview Heights. The eastern boundary of the CRA is 1.5 miles from Broad and High, and the new Confluence Village/Crew Stadium project is within sniffing distance.

The Kenny & Henderson CRA is a stone’s throw away from Upper Arlington which is one of the wealthiest suburbs of Columbus with a median income of $103,000 and median property value of $338,000.

This northern boundary of this proposed Northeast CRA sits on the edge of Mr. Wexner’s Easton Development. An area that is saturated with the corporate offices of members of the Columbus Partnership who control economic city policy  and politicians here at City Hall. Alliance Data which received as $8.5 million tax abatement and 65%  10-year city income tax exemption is only a couple of blocks away. Also nearby is Abbott Labs, Huntington Bank, Morgan Stanley, Citi Bank, and Root Insurance who will be going public soon and is expected to raise $6 billion with its IPO.

And let’s be honest, by adding the surrounding neighborhoods to this CRA is smoke and mirrors. Home values for homeowners west of Stelzer range from $50,000 - $80,000 and $115 – $215,000. These people are living paycheck by paycheck and to think that they have 20% of the assessed value of their home in disposable income lying around to make a tax abated real property improvement on their homes is absurd.

The new Metro Developments will create 144 units out of 728 units for those between the 60% and 80% AMI leaving 80% of its units unaffordable for those below these thresholds. Although I am encouraged that there is finally a requirement in such an area at 60% AMI, more needs to be done. The 14 acres of vacant land to the immediate north of Codet and Metro’s project will undoubtedly be developed and eligible for a 15-year 100% tax abatement. Any new housing development for that property should be earmarked as a truly affordable housing project at 60% AMI and below.    

Your Ronald Regan trickle down tax incentive policies continue to have an adverse impact on the working class and poor as it continues to rob much needed property tax revenues for public education and unfairly places higher property taxes on homeowners and raises rents. It’s time that Mayor Ginther and this City Council recognize that we cannot continue to give out tens of millions of dollars in city income tax exemptions to corporate Columbus and tax abate our way out of poverty.