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Franklin Twp./City to re-negotiate former annexation agreement.
Columbus City Council approved the annexation agreement regarding the casino site, between the City of Columbus and Penn National on June 6.
The Franklin County Commissioners vote on the agreement June 7.
According to Dan Williamson, spokesperson for Mayor Michael Coleman, the agreement would be the foundation to reach a final settlement.
“There are still some contingencies left in the lawsuit,” Williamson said.
The agreement would lead to the Hollywood Casino annexing out of Franklin Township and into the city, in exchange for use of water and sewer services to the former Delphi site.
A settlement would call for the city to reimburse $15 million to Penn National for environmental and roadway improvements, and begin joint efforts in the economic development of the Westside – however, the settlement is conditioned on the dismissal of all lawsuits stemming from the casino project.
According to Williamson, two external factors are still in play. Penn National wishes to sell the Arena District site, and then they would drop their lawsuit; and the Columbus Dispatch Printing Co., would drop their lawsuit against Penn National after that.
When annexation is completed, Franklin Township will lose 123 acres of land to the city. According to Franklin Township Trustee Chair Timothy Guyton, because of multiple hearings on the issue, he does not imagine annexation being effective until October.
Currently, the township annually receives approximately $70,000 in property taxes. Guyton said that after the annexation, the township’s service level will not change, but he could not comment on future revenue.
Guyton added no township wants to lose land to annexation.
“Once land is annexed, it is gone forever. You cannot get it back. Property tax is the main source of income for townships; in townships that have a larger commercial base, the financial hit to the residents is lessened. This is the reason we strive to retain our commercial base and then expand upon it as much as possible,” Guyton said.
Williamson said if the annexation is successful; the city will re-negotiate the non-binding memorandum of understanding, previously agreed between the city and the township in 2010.
The existing memorandum is now void, Williamson said, because the city felt the original agreement was on the premise of the casino site annexing and the township being treated fairly in that instance. Williamson said instead of working towards annexation, the township worked against.
The 2010 memorandum of understanding, an informal verbal agreement, detailed joint planning efforts, a 50 year Joint Economic Development District, and fair compensation for loss of revenue – equaling 10 percent of construction income tax, or 24 percent of total income tax collected from the Delphi site the first five years of operation and 25 percent for the following 45 years.
While that agreement is now off the table, the city still promises to assist Franklin Township. Once a settlement is finalized, the city will open negotiations involving the same core issues as the last memorandum.
“We still want to be good neighbors,” Williamson said.
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