Impact fees impacting Pickerington council

Pickerington City Council tabled ordinances that would partially refund the impact fees paid by two businesses.

Windmiller Square Office Condominiums and Barnyard Primitives, Inc. (Kindred Spirits Craft Mall) both began the building permit process before the city enacted impact fees, however they still paid.

Originally attorney Richard Ricketts requested full reimbursement on behalf of the two businesses, however the city staff disagreed.

The staff determined the businesses should receive 50 percent reimbursement because the projects were "significantly underway."

In addition, Barnyard Primitives would receive an additional 25 percent for a total of 75 percent because of capitol improvements they made.

Windmiller Square may receive a full reimbursement if within 18 months their payroll exceeds $1 million or they employ more than 20 people.

Speaking at council’s Sept. 4 meeting, Mayor David Shaver and a portion of the council members said they feared that if the city granted refunds, residential developments would request reimbursement, too.

Councilman Jeff Fix said the city knew of no other projects that could claim they were substantially underway.

"If we approve (the refunds) it doesn’t automatically give a free pass down the road," said Fix.

Development Director Tim Hansley said that currently if a business seeks a building permit it is told upfront about the impact fees, but that Windmiller Square and Barnyard Primitives were notified toward the end of the process.

In terms of whether the city could be sued by other developers, Hansley said the city is "always open to frivolous lawsuits."

Shaver said, "How frivolous would a lawsuit be from a residential developer?"

Law Director Philip Hartmann said that even if a lawsuit would arise, the city could defend itself.

Hansley said the building permit process in Pickerington often takes around a year especially for local start-ups.

Council tabled the refund requests until the mayor and council members who had not witnessed Ricketts’ testimony to the finance committee could hear his case firsthand.

Annexation agreement on hold

Because an agreement has yet to be reached with the Violet Township trustees, Pickerington City Council tabled its version of an ordinance to annex 3.3 acres near the corner of Wright and Diley roads.

Shaver along with council members Fix, Michael Sabatino and Keith Smith will meet with the trustees within the next week about the issue.

The township rezoned the land last year for a proposed office park. The project is on hold until the city and township can agree on how much money Pickerington needs to pay Violet Township to annex the property.

Pickerington wants to give the township 10 percent of the income taxes collected from the property and Violet Township wants 15 percent.

Other Pickerington news

•Council approved a first reading for a new mixed-use development on Hill Road near Pickerington Central High School. The 8.76-acre business park would wrap around an existing pond. The old farmhouse will be expanded into a bed and breakfast and the area will include a sandwich shop with a drive-thru.

•Council also approved a first reading to accept a bid of $103,923 by Perram Electric, Inc. to improve traffic lights. Councilman Ted Hackworth said the bid is phase one of a project that has been in the works for a couple of years. During this phase, more reliable LED lights will replace the existing traffic signals at the major intersections and video equipment will be installed.

•The Fairfield County Board of Elections requested that council permit staff members to take a paid day-off on Election Day to serve as judges at local precincts.

Fix said Violet Township has already agreed to the request and he supports the ordinance as long as Pickerington employees work precincts outside the city’s jurisdiction.

Councilman Brian Wisniewski said that if staff members want to help with the polls, they should take vacation days. Staffing polls is the county and the state’s problem.

"It is not the responsibility of the city to spend tax money to pay employees to go man polls," Wisniewski said.

Hackworth said that the county pays poll workers $85 per day and the presiding judge receives $95.

Hartmann said many poll workers stopped volunteering because they couldn’t understand the new electronic ballot process.

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