by Mark Fitzgerald
My friend Paul Elliott and I debate the wisdom and merit (or lack thereof) of a government entity “being in the real estate business.” This was recently rekindled due to the Community Improvement Corporation (the City of Loveland’s economic development organization) purchasing the former bowling alley on Loveland Madeira Road. The site is to be cleared and re-marketed for private sector development.
Philosophically those at varying ends of the political spectrum might all come to agree that in a pure capitalistic private enterprise system “government” wouldn’t be in the real estate business, or perhaps any other business for that matter – water, parks, emergency medical service? But, practically speaking this isn’t an option. Government has long provided enterprise services and been engaged in economic development projects that serve to bring jobs, revitalize communities and expand the tax base.
A couple glaring practical matters which require tough public policy decisions faced Loveland Council as it relates to the bowling alley property. The first, on a “macro” level is the reality that property tax burdens over the past 20 years have dramatically shifted. According to a Columbus Dispatch article (June 15, 2014 by Jim Siegel) homeowners and farmers now carry 70% of the school property tax load as opposed to being less than 50% as it was in 1991. Most of this is due to tax changes at the State level and many of those changes served to improve Ohio’s competitive balance. But what this has done is make it so those of us at the local level must work aggressively toward increasing the commercial tax base. Allowing a dilapidated and outdated structure at the entry to our commercial strip to remain and become non-tax paying runs counter this objective. The second practical matter is that Loveland Madeira Road is the principal commercial corridor in and out of Loveland. We need clean “shovel ready” sites for redevelopment that will maintain, and hopefully strengthen, the Loveland Madeira corridor.
We are open to criticism either way. If redevelopment fails to occur in a timely and quality manner we will rightfully be asked “why did you do that?” Had we done nothing and an obsolete untaxed building remain we’d rightfully be asked “why did you let that happen?” I’d prefer to respond to the former since it is the path that leads to jobs and growth.
Mark Fitzgerald is Loveland Vice Mayor and President of Community Improvement Corporation