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Cleveland Heights smoothes school compensation deal for Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook project ‘shovel ready’

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — The “shovel-ready” Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook project still needs official blessing from the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City Council and School Board on a proposed school district tax offset agreement .

Cleveland Heights Mayor Kahlil Seren introduced the Tax Increase Financing (TIF) project at the Oct. 17 council meeting, followed by an open letter to council and school district officials on Friday.

“It’s a much better deal than Top of the Hill,” Seren said of TIF’s proposal for a $50 million Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook mixed-use development, in terms of “how better to get it.” ensure that (the project) benefits the whole community.”

The CH-UH school board saw to that after initially receiving a TIF package that mirrored Top of the Hill, the $80 million project from the same developer, Flaherty & Collins, which is nearing completion further west. on Cedar Road.

In a Sept. 20 meeting with Seren and other Cleveland Heights officials, the school board first discussed using the city parking lot on Edgewood Road during construction, not just for teacher parking. and students during the school day, but also for district sports. and other special events.

But the school board also presented district treasurer and chief financial officer Scott Gainer and attorneys working on the TIF with a list of half a dozen wanted items in the final package.

A final ‘sticking point’ remained as a special school board meeting anticipated the quarterly joint session with the two city councils and Heights Library trustees scheduled for Wednesday, October 26, which was ‘pushed back’ at the end November, CH-UH said Malia Lewis, Chair of the Board of Education.

As for the rest of the deal, Seren outlined some of the key elements of the October 22 city news update sent online to subscribers and posted on the city’s website.

After presenting the proposed 30-year TIF package on October 3, Seren said last week that he hoped the board would follow suit with a second reading and final vote on November 7 after the school board’s planned adoption. of its own resolution on November 1 or at some time after the discussion at the special meeting.

Not so fast, Lewis said.

“After not hearing anything from the city for months, things suddenly became more emergent,” Lewis said Monday. “This has all been surprisingly recent, in terms of coming back to us with a revised school compensation agreement.”

The biggest difference is in the proposed split of payments in lieu of taxes (“PILOTS”) between the developer and the school district, with F&C receiving just over 66% and the schools guaranteeing almost 34% – possibly more if the project’s evaluation exceeds expectations, noted Lewis.

This formula is about 9% more for the school district than the existing Top of the Hill deal, where the developer keeps 75% of the PILOTS and the schools get 25% — the original offer this time around as well.

Lewis noted that while school district tax attorney David Seed, Cleveland Heights outside legal counsel Eugene Killeen, Gainer and the developer have been working behind the scenes on a deal, the school board has yet to receive a request or request. formal presentation on the proposed TIF. from the city.

Seren said final adjustments are still being made on the revised school compensation agreement. At the same time, “all necessary revisions have taken place, and all permits have been issued” by the city, he noted.

“Completing a project on this site has been a challenge for more than twenty years,” Seren said in the city’s statement. “The Cedar-Lee parking garage (built in 2007) is a monument to the many attempts to develop this area; it was built in anticipation of a project that did not materialize.

With the revised agreement, the school district is expected to earn an additional $300,000 a year from the pilots, going from $109,000 (most of that collected in taxes on underutilized parking) a year to about $409,000 a year. , good for $9 million. over the duration of the 30-year TIF.

In addition to nearly quadrupling the school district’s annual recurring revenue there, the city would also share the nearly $325,000 in local income taxes generated by the 257 construction jobs on the project, or more than $162,000 each for the city and the school district.

The mixed-use development with 206 apartments and approximately 8,200 square feet of proposed retail space will create 25 permanent jobs and accommodate over 300 residents.

An estimated two-thirds of newcomers to Cleveland Heights generate an additional $200,000 a year in city income tax revenue, based on economic projections.

“We are so close to the finish line, which is also the starting line for construction,” Seren told the board last week. “But we can’t start without the school board.

‘Glue point’

Of the list of items presented by the school board to CLM’s development legal team, Lewis said the only outstanding issue remains the city’s practice of charging the district for the use of some of its recreational facilities, namely the baseball and softball fields at Forest Hill Park. , Denison Park Football Ground and Cain Park Tennis Courts.

Although the city does not charge for ice time at the Cleveland Heights Community Center, the school board received a proposal early in the school year for the use of city land and courts for $50 from the hour – after the athletic department budget has been Positioned.

“It sticks by the throats of several school board members, especially since it appeared just before school started,” Lewis said Monday.

The going rate has fluctuated since the high school’s renovation project closed baseball and softball fields for several years after voters approved a $135 million bond issue in 2013.

Most of these funds were spent on refurbishing Heights High, completed in time for the 2017-18 school year, although the fields along Goodnor Road still need resurfacing.

The city charged the school district up to $75 per hour for the use of its pitches and courts totaling $32,400 in the 2017-18 school year and $22,000 in 2018- 19.

That came down to a “COVID rate” of $35 an hour during the 2020-21 and 21-22 school years, costing the district about $9,000 a year.

Lewis believes that the city assessing the fee at a given rate to the school district is “charging the community twice, since the facilities were already funded the first time by taxpayers.”

The issue of “facility sharing” was also raised at joint meetings of the school district board, city councils and Heights Library trustees, with a committee formed to address it as one of their “areas of common interest”.

Although Seren mentioned a closer look at the school district’s ongoing fee assessment, “that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be written,” Lewis said.

As a “topic for another day,” Lewis said the school district is “looking forward to putting it in place so the community can get back to the indoor pool (at Heights High) and officially declare the end of the pandemic.” .

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John Smith

The author John Smith