“I’ve got to tell you that this I believe is probably one of the best infill development sites available in Greater Cincinnati today.” - Jim Cohen
It was not an unexpected response when hearing this quote that Loveland taxpayers are responding, “Then why are we giving it away?" Blue Ash developer Jim Cohen wants to build apartments and rent commercial space in Historic Downtown Loveland. (Exclusive report on downtown development)
Are we actually paying Cohen to take it off our hands?
Not unexpected either was, “This is being rushed to have it tied up before election day.” City council allowed a self imposed deadline of October 24 to set the deal in stone; 13 days before a different majority may be elected. They and Cohen know they currently have the four votes needed to pull it off tonight. Politicians are already using the dirt moving in Historic Downtown as proof of their prowess in economic development and financial wizardness. However almost all the wizardness has been behind closed doors and council is sworn to secrecy, forbidden to publicly discuss what they hear in executive season.
Loveland’s city manager Thomas Carroll is continually looking for a new job. Is he padding his resume? Prospective employers will be told it took a stroke of his genius to build a $10 million development for Loveland, but they will never look at the details. Loveland taxpayers should. The undercurrent of the upcoming election is that Carroll will be fired if the current council majority is replaced, but those quietly running on this platform will not say it publicly, nor will they demand that financial discussions of the Cohen deal be discussed at the council table where they belong.
Cohen will acquire the Loveland Station property in Historic Downtown that Loveland taxpayers have poured $3 million into, for a maximum of $290,000. If Cohen chooses to not take the gift of the parking lot, he will only pay $180,000.
What else do tax payers get if the development agreement up for vote during tonight's late night city council meeting at 9 PM passes?
1. Tax payers get to spend a minimum of $50,000 to repair and replace electric supply lines, any of the brick sidewalks, or existing streetscape improvements that are torn up or moved during construction, and share the cost of the next $100,000 if the repairs cost more. (Cohen pays anything over $150,000). There is no actual cost estimate.
2. Taxpayers get to spend $300,000 creating a railroad quiet zone. (Cohen pays the next $200,000) and if the cost rises above half a million, taxpayers will split whatever that might be. There is no cost estimate for what the total price of a restful sleep for affluent empty nesters and young professionals might ultimately be. Cohen is planing on building luxury apartments with balconies right at the edge of a busy rail line.
3. Taxpayers get to pay an un-estimated cost to bury any existing overhead utility lines that Cohen doesn’t think his tenants should have to look at from their upstairs windows and balconies. Cohen does not share in this cost.
4. Taxpayers get to forgo all the recreation impact fees for Cohen and his tenants; water tap fees, road impact fees, building and other permit fees.
5. Taxpayers have already begun paying to have dirt moved to the site to bring Cohen’s apartment buildings above the flood plain, and more fill dirt is promised. Council this month authorized up to $88,000 for fill dirt.
6. Taxpayers bought the McCoy property for future re-development, demolished the historic structure, but Cohen is promised nothing can ever be built there that could obstruct his tenant’s views of the river.
7. When he was poor mouthing revenues last year urging voters to increase the income tax, Carroll said that when Loveland Station is built it would only generate $25,000 in income tax revenue. His estimates are now suddenly much higher, $140,000, as he tries to sell another idea. Not knowing which figure is actuality, it will still take three decades or more to pay off the debt of the project. Future property tax revenues on the site, will not benefit the entire community, but solely used to pay the debt on Cohen’s project.
8. Taxpayers get to buy more property for Cohen, the 0.48 acre CSX railroad property at the perimeter of the site. They are already paying more than $17,000 for environmental assessments and the property will cost $60,000.
9. Estimated new, additional legal fees, are $50,000.
Taxpayers have never been privy to the financial discussions of the Cohen deal. They have only been discussed behind the closed doors of council executive sessions. They were not discussed at last week’s meeting of the Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) when Loveland Magazine’s TV camera was recording, and when details started to emerge, President, Brenton Zuch and Mayor Weisgerber decided that even the CIC could not hear the details.
It took a threat of legal action by Loveland Magazine before the proposed development agreement was finally released to the public this week.
Are taxpayers buying an election victory for encumbers? Come hell or high water, there was going to be brown dirt, dump trucks, and yellow, diesel dirt movers seen in downtown Loveland before November 5.
Have an election first
The continued employment of Carroll will be decided on election night. Likewise, the Cohen deal should be negotiated by whomever is elected on November 5th, not at a late night meeting at City Hall tonight.
Cohen said during the CIC meeting:
I will till you very candidly this type of project takes an enormous commitment from both public and private resources and I don’t want to spend two years of my life and millions of dollars to play politics and to be completely honest with you that is what scares me most about this project.
Perhaps councilwoman, Paulette Leeper, Carroll's constant cheerleader, and a member of the ruling majority, summed it all up when she replied to Cohen:
Good golly, it’s October of municipal elections, so I appreciate your candor.
I just want to pledge to you, I’m not up for re-election. I have no political agenda. And, I give you my full support.