President of Council Kathy McNear called Council to order on October 4, 2000 at 7:00 p.m.
The governmental body and those in attendance recited the pledge of allegiance.
Mr. Knox took roll call. Present were Council members Danbury, Galster, Pollitt, Squires, Vanover, Wilson and McNear.
There were two changes to the minutes of September 20, 2000. The last four lines on page 7211 were repeated on 7212. Also, on page 7211, third paragraph, Clearsprings should be Fairsprings. The minutes were approved with seven affirmative votes.
COMMUNICATIONS - none
COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE
Ruth Burbank, 253 Bowden Lane, said my concern is that several years ago General Electric Employees Park had wanted to move to Woodlawn and ShopCo was going to take over the property where the park now is. After consideration from Tri-County people and the residences, the City of Springdale decided that wasnít a very good move and so it basically locked the General Electric Employees Park into staying where they were, which was fine. Itís a great park and a lovely place to be. I know they have financial problems other than the taxes, but I canít quite understand how things could happen. Iím not sure who is responsible because Iíve called several people and they keep racing me around to the next guy and you go around in a big circle between Springdale and Hamilton County. I just want an explanation to me as a resident of Springdale, what kind of obligations that the Council of the City of Springdale has to the park. Their taxes were raised $90,000 this past year. Iím not here as a representative of the park. I am a member of the park and have been for 49 years. Itís been shared by the community as well. I have met many Springdale residents there who are not General Electric employees.
Mr. Osborn said I had the opportunity to discuss this issue with Mrs. Burbank a week or so ago and I believe she also had the opportunity to raise these same issues at a recent GE Employees Athletic Association membership meeting. I think the answers are consistent, at least as I understand what Mr. Neff had to say at those meetings. Yes, the City rezoned that property back in 1989 or 1990 in effort to put the best land use in place there to avoid a mega-mall from coming in and overwhelming our community. I think this was overwhelmingly supported by the residents of our City at the time.
Mrs. Burbank asked the zoning was supported by the residents or just the killing of the mall?
Mr. Osborn replied that was what we were attempting to do and the way to do that was to put a zoning in place that we could effectively defend in litigation and thatís what we ultimately did.
Mrs. Burbank asked isnít there something that can be done between the City of Springdale and Hamilton County?
Mr. Osborn responded we ran into this problem in our phone conversation. You wouldnít let me finish my comments. The problem that has occurred is not related to any action on the part of Springdale. Apparently there has been a decision by the taxing authority in Hamilton County or the State of Ohio that changed their status. As a result their tax bill went up. The City of Springdale made an effort to help them shield themselves from that tax by trying to work out an arrangement where we would purchase the property from them and lease it back. They could continue to use it as they currently use it. That was our response to the same issue when Mr. Neff raised it a year or so ago. Our response was to try to help GE Park stay in place just as they are and try to avoid this additional taxation through some sort of protection from the increase. Theyíve chosen not to do that. I can only respond to you what the Cityís reaction was at the time.
Mrs. Burbank stated you mean we have to give up our property in order to be protected from this tax.
Mr. Osborn answered no maíam, I said for a nominal amount we would have purchased the property from GE Athletic Association and then leased it back to them for a nominal amount. We offered to let them write the conditions of the lease so that they would have full protection and control under it. The purpose was to bring it under the ownership of the City to avoid the taxes.
Mrs. Burbank said this doesnít sound satisfactory to me. The members have owned that park and Iím telling you that the members are not going to agree to that type of situation. If you really follow the story it seems to me that you have us in a trap. I just wondered how much responsibility lies with Springdale, how much with Hamilton County and how much with Tri-County in terms of what happened. They wanted to move out and go down to Woodlawn. I was at the meetings here too and it didnít sound like a very good idea to have ShopCo go in, but the solutions to the problems we have at General Electric will not turn out to be anything very satisfactory to either the park or Springdale residents, the way it is going right now.
Mr. Knox said if the City were to have the land in our name, municipalities are not charged taxes. You are talking about $88,000. Donít forget the $77,000 that is already being paid which would no longer have to be paid. Remember, Mr. Lorenzi said only $20,000 went into capital improvements last year. That would give you close to $200,000 for capital improvements. There are a lot of advantages to the way the City presented this. As Mr. Osborn said, the members could write the lease. What else can the City do? Hamilton County sets the rates. Mr. Lorenzi told you that four times.
Mrs. Burbank said I donít know what can be done. What can Council do? Can you investigate some other things? It just seems to me that in this country we should not have to give up the park to get that kind of solution to it. I know the way things are going now, unless Springdale, Hamilton County, the park and Tri-County can cooperate in some manner to solve some of these problems it will just be a continual fight and the way things are going to end up are not going to be happy for Springdale or GE employees.
Mayor Webster said I want to echo the comments Mr. Osborn made. Before this latest tax increase came along, we made that offer to GE in 1996. They were having a budgetary problem and came to us. We told them to write the lease any way they want it. If the association could take the City of Springdaleís name and get rid of the $77,000 worth of taxes, if they could take the Cityís name and refinance all those capital improvements, lower the interest on the debt, we could have made a tremendous impact in the profit and loss statement of that park. Our only motive was to try to make sure that stayed a park in perpetuity. The only desire we had and we didnít get anywhere with the board on this, was that we wanted to build a fire station and offer protection to the eastern part of Springdale and we were hoping that we could buy outright a section to put a fire house on. That went nowhere. Our proposal to help them with their budgetary problems went nowhere. So now they lose this other exemption, whatever it was, and now they have the original problem plus they have an additional $88,000 in property tax, and what can we do? You are saying help us, Springdale. We tried to help, we bent over backwards to help and it falls on deaf ears. I donít know what we as a city are supposed to do.
Mrs. Burbank stated Iím not a person who can tell you what to do. Iím just presenting to you that there is a major problem and I donít know whatís going to happen. It doesnít seem like the solution is for Springdale to own that property. You canít get one member who wants to sell that park to Springdale. It just has a bad ring in our head.
Mayor Webster replied then the ring in your head is that you pay more money in taxes. You want us to help but you refuse our help. You bite our hand and think weíre trying to take your property. We arenít trying to take your property. We didnít instigate this. The park instigated this. They were having budgetary problems and came to us to see if there was anything we could do to help them and we gave them that proposal.
Mrs. Burbank asked and this is the only way you can help us?
Mayor Webster answered, as Mr. Knox told you, we donít levy the property tax. We donít control the exemption status that the park had.
Mrs. Burbank asked do you know what that status was?
Mayor Webster replied I do not know. Canít your board share that information?
Mrs. Burbank responded I donít know what it was but they didnít get anywhere when they went to Hamilton County. I donít know what can be done but I just want Springdale to know that it is a problem. It is a problem for the park and for the people of Springdale. I donít expect, unless you get people on Council who are real interested in doing something about it, I donít know. I just have this real problem, why you turned it down and now weíre in such a mess.
Mayor Webster asked what did we turn down?
Mrs. Burbank replied you turned down for us to move to Woodlawn.
Mr. Osborn said they chose not to go because they couldnít sell the property.
Mrs. Burbank said we didnít chose not to go. ShopCo was not allowed to buy the property.
Mayor Webster stated the Council, the Mayor and I as the Finance Director at the time, did not feel that that was in the best interest of the City of Springdale to have another megamall right on the other side of the railroad tracks.
Mrs. Burbank replied I would have to agree with you there. It was not in the best interest of Springdale We donít think whatís going to be happening will be in the best interest of Springdale either.
Mr. Danbury said I hope you walk away tonight and listen to what people are saying. We know it could be a problem. There are two options. Either you pay the taxes levied by someone else, or weíre offering you an option where you wonít have to pay the taxes and you can continue to stay the same way that you want it. As much as we would love to help each and every business here, we cannot go to this tire store or car dealer and help them out financially with paying taxes or anything else they would incur. I believe you have the impression that the City is the bad guy here. Weíre well aware of the situation.
Mrs. Burbank said you arenít the bad guy but youíre not doing an awfully lot. You say you only have two ways. It seems to me that there are other ways to solve problems.
Mr. Danbury replied we cannot take public funds and spend it towards your taxes. We are offering you the opportunity to keep that as a green space and utilize it the same way. You can write the lease and you donít want to hear about it. Thereís nothing we can do to please you.
Mrs. Burbank asked you have no workings with Hamilton County?
Mr. Danbury replied thatís not our job.
Mrs. Burbank responded it seems odd that you do the zoning and they do the taxation. Thereís something a little bit wrong there.
Mr. Danbury said we can tell somebody to do something but we donít have any influence over the federal government or the state. Itís our job to take care of matters here and make sure our residents are safe and have a nice community. Each of us up here wants to maintain the park as it is today.
Mr. Vanover said I remember those meetings quite dearly. I was one of the citizens who fought it because that is my front yard. Originally we had contacted the park for a right of first refusal to purchase that property. In the aftermath, I as well as other people in this chamber was named in federal lawsuits. We were depositioned. You donít know the half of what went on. We offered to buy the park. I would love to see that park continue. Weíve had negotiations all the way through. They want the help but they want us to write a check or something. It canít be done. We have offered avenues. If you can write the lease and have use of that park from here to eternity and you are controlling it, what makes the difference if you own it or you donít. Springdale is not the bad guy. At that point in time I stood on street corners and counted traffic. I talked to people in Heritage Hill and thatís what got me involved at that time. If another mall comes in Iíll be out there fighting it just as much as I did then, because we donít need it. I donít want it.
Mr. Squires said you realize that when that property was rezoned it was rezoned for reasons that you are now enjoying. We had nothing to do with the raising of taxes on it. Youíve heard a proposal from the City on our offer to help. Has your board done anything to clear up that situation?
Mrs. Burbank said they have stated that they have gone to Springdale and Hamilton County and they donít see any cooperation or help from Springdale or Hamilton County.
Mr. Squires responded they donít realize that what we are offering is a way of helping.
Mrs. Burbank replied, I donít know why, but that doesnít sound like a way of helping to me, and I know it doesnít sound like a way of helping to anybody else who is a member. Youíre explaining something on paper that may look good but we all know you give up the ownership, you are in trouble.
Mr. Squires asked what is the alternative if they canít raise the $88,000 to $90,000? Your board will have to come up with something in order to protect that park and maintain it the way you enjoy it.
Mrs. Burbank said if you canít do anything for us thatís all I wanted to know.
Mr. Squires said itís not that we canít do anything. We have offered something.
Mr. Wilson asked what do you think you would lose if the City were to own the park and lease it back to you and you put the terms in the lease as to what you want to be done with the property other than the pride of ownership?
Mrs. Burbank said Iím sure itís the pride of ownership and everyone doubts when some other political entity owns the property. There are too many loopholes, too many things that could happen. We would lose our identity as a park and you could impose all kinds of rules and regulations.
Mr. Wilson said you write the lease and put the stipulations in it.
Mrs. Burbank replied but you donít know whatís coming up down the road.
Mr. Wilson said you are afraid something might happen down the pike that might be detrimental to the employees if the City owns the property.
Mrs. Burbank replied, yes, if we donít have right of jurisdiction.
Mr. Wilson stated you know the rezoning was done to keep the property a park. We were able to do that as a city.
Mrs. Burbank responded it would stay a park but it also kept us from moving.
Mr. Wilson said but you agreed with us that you didnít want ShopCo there.
Mrs. Burbank replied I personally didnít but the GE Park members did.
Mr. Wilson said you are saying that the majority of members wanted to sell the property to ShopCo and move.
Mrs. Burbank replied absolutely. They were looking for it.
Mr. Wilson said you realize that moving to Woodlawn would not change your tax status.
Mrs. Burbank said that park was forty years old at the time and they were going to build a new one.
Mr. Wilson asked did they have the foresight to know that moving to a new facility at a new location the taxes would probably be even higher and that they would be in the same situation that they are in now.
Mrs. Burbank replied I donít think they would have been for another twenty years because of the fact of maintenance.
Mr. Wilson said because of the higher value of the property the taxes would be higher too.
Mr. Knox said I would like to explain to Council and to the people watching on television what the board actually plans to do. Mr. Lorenzi, the president of the Board of Trustees, said that the association intends to sell 55% of the picnic area that sits on the corner of SR 747 and Crescentville and to sell land south of that which is two ball diamonds. This would not interfere with the shoefly the railroad will have to build there with the road when we go underneath that. The only stipulation Mr. Lorenzi said was in the contract to sell was there would be no fast food restaurants allowed. They do have two tentative offers but I donít think they will be satisfactory to what the board wants. They do intend to get enough money to put $2-$2.5 million in the bank and draw the interest from that to pay these taxes perpetually and to also have at least $1 million to make capital improvements to the park. The plan to sell those 12-16 acres seems to me to be a good plan.
Mr. Osborn said the discussion regarding the means of trying to avoid the tax increase was some time ago. Since then we have been aware that the board is interested in selling off part of the park property. We have met with members of the board and have tried to help them with that planning process. If you look at the zoning of the park, roughly the western most third of the property is zoned retail. The middle third is zoned office and the eastern most part is multi-family. Mr. Neff has indicated that they need to raise capital for operating purposes and debt retirement ,and they see the property that has the greatest value and therefore results in the highest taxation is that corner property along SR 747. We have been meeting with the board to discuss how they might look at redeveloping that property. It is already zoned retail. We have tried to point out some of the limitations they will have to deal with. Because of the grade separation being built on SR 747 we wouldnít signalize the entry point off of SR 747 because that would occur just about the point where the top of the grade coming out from under the underpass would exist and we would be stopping trucks on that grade. Itís tough enough to keep trucks moving along that corridor now without stopping them on that grade. We did indicate that we would work with Butler County to determine if we could put a signal on Crescentville Road at the northern entrance to the site. We have offered the services of our City Planner to them at no cost to help them work through some of these planning issues as might relate to site access and compatibility of land use, buffering for their own interest, etc. That offer has been made by the City of Springdale that we would make Ms. McBride available to them with their consultant to do preliminary planning or any assistance they might deem appropriate from a professional planner.
Mr. Galster said, Mrs. Burbank, you understand that as a resident of Springdale you were happy to not have ShopCo here. As a GE member you want to move to Woodlawn. Keep in mind that our duty up here is to keep you as a resident of Springdale happy, not necessarily you as a member of GE Park. I think what Council did was exactly that. They kept the residents happy because that was what was best for our community.
Mrs. Burbank asked do you think the residents are going to be happy with what is going to happen now?
Mr. Galster replied we can only do what we can do. We canít dictate to GE what they do with their property. You have said before that you wouldnít want the City to own your house and pay rent there. But if you have the ability to write the lease and you had a pay $1 a year rent and any time you werenít happy you could buy your house back, sounds like a pretty good deal. The City isnít stopping you from doing anything. You can always have the ability to get the property back. Itís however you want to write the lease to your best interest. In the meantime we would have accomplished eliminating the taxes, keeping the park a park and if some way, fifteen to twenty years down the road, the membership thinks this isnít really a good deal for them, buy it back from the City for $1 and do what you are doing today.
Ms. Pollitt said I believe there are areas in Springdale that the City leases from an entity for a small amount of money. Most of our residents might never know that. The only reason I know is that I have a piece of property that is adjacent to it. I pay $1 a year. Iíve lived there since 1971 and I cut the grass. That little tiny piece of property belongs to the Board of Education. It butts up to the Springdale Recreation Center. Anyone who came into that facility would believe it belongs to the City of Springdale and it does on a long term lease. I found out about it when I purchased my property and needed to have a tree cut. I called the City who said they lease it but it is owned by the Board of Education. If itís an identity factor that is at issue here, that can be worked out also.
Mr. Osborn said we are the lessee and the School Board owns the property. They get to use the property. We maintain it as ball fields 5 and 6 and the school uses it for their recreational area. There is one other piece of property in the City that was owned by the City on paper, the limited care facility at Maple Knoll. While it was being financed the City issued hospital revenue bonds. In order to issue these bonds we had to own the property so we purchased the property from the Maple Knoll Trust and financed their construction for them. They chose not to let that financing run its course and paid the bonds off early. The clause was in there that when they paid the bonds off the property reverted back to them. We permitted a third party to benefit from the tax protection of the City. In that case, because of a state law to encourage the construction of hospitals we were in a position to help them structure their financing to their advantage as well.
Mrs. McNear said I believe the City has tried to work with GE Park and its members. I think they just didnít get the answer they were looking for. From what we can tell here, it looks like the City would be open to further discussions. I think the next step would be to go back to your board and see if they have any other solutions.
ORDINANCE 75-2000 "AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR AND CLERK OF COUNCIL/FINANCE DIRECTOR TO ENTER INTO A MUTUAL AID AGREEMENT WITH THE CINCINNATI POLICE DEPARTMENT AND OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES IN HAMILTON COUNTY, OHIO, AND DECLARING AN EMERGENCY"
Mr. Knox said there is an error in Section 2 that says "the Clerk of Council/Director are directed". That should be is directed.
Mr. Vanover made a motion to adopt and Mr. Squires seconded.
Ordinance 75-2000 passed with seven affirmative votes.
OLD BUSINESS - none
Mayor Webster said the dedication of the sundial from the Chuck Lindner family will be Sunday, October 22, at 2 p.m. There will be a brief dedication ceremony and then we will adjourn back to the rotunda for refreshments. All City officials are invited to attend.
Mayor Webster read a proclamation proclaiming October 2000 "Crime Prevention Month."
MEETINGS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Halloween - October 31, 6-8 p.m.
Planning Commission - October 10
Leaf collection starts in Springdale Terrace October 16
Halloween party for youth - October 29, 2-4 p.m.
Board of Zoning Appeals - October 17
Board of Health - October 12
Mr. Osborn said I came across an announcement about a person with whom I have spent a lot of time learning about the law, Mr. Schneider. Roger Bacon High School awarded Ken the Astrolabe Award. This is a singular honor that he deserves. If you read the biographical information in this announcement you can appreciate why Ken has been tapped for this recognition.
COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE - none
UPDATE ON LEGISLATION STILL IN DEVELOPMENT - none
RECAP OF LEGISLATIVE ITEMS REQUESTED - none
Council adjourned at 7:50 p.m.
Edward F. Knox
Clerk of Council/Finance Director
Kathy McNear, President of Council