By JEFF GALLATIN
Mayor Debbie Sutherland has told City Council that if it chooses to proceed with placing developer Andrew Brickman’s proposal to build luxury apartments on property by Cahoon Creek and the old Shell gas station on the November ballot, it should offer abatements as part of the project.
Sutherland said Friday that tax abatements or some form of a public investment have become a must in any project like this.
“For something to like this to move forward, you have to offer some form of abatement or public investment in this type of project,” she said.
Brickman and Justin Campbell from their development firm Abode made a presentation to council and the administration several weeks ago about developing the luxury apartments on the old Shell gas station property off Wolf Road and nearby Cahoon Creek. They cited their work on similar projects in the Rocky River’s Eleven River and Lakewood’s Clifton Pointe projects as evidence of their ability to produce quality work in communities. During their presentation, they noted several times that tax abatements or other public investment would be needed for them to move forward on any project in the city.
Sutherland sent a memo to council last week detailing her concerns about how the proposal is being handled by council.
“In this economic environment, no developer can finance a project alone – it is always a partnership to achieve a good end product,” she said in the memo. “I have heard via the grapevine that council is not in favor of providing abatement on the improvement of the Shell property, but is in favor of rezoning other (the nearby Cahoon Creek area) property. The 2 approaches must go hand in hand. There is no credible developer that moves forward without public investment of some kind. So either commit to redevelopment by supporting both rezoning and public investment (abatement) or do nothing and just let the Shell property sit vacant. It is your choice but a half measure will do nothing but create controversy without an end product.”
Any such development is required by city law to go on the ballot for voter approval. The developers said they would like to get it on the November 2013 ballot. That would require a public hearing and council approving placing it on the ballot. The deadline for placement on the November ballot is in August, meaning council likely would have to hold at least some special meetings, since it normally has a summer recess in July and August.
Mike Young, council vice president and chairman of the Finance Committee, said Friday council is not through discussing the issue.
“We haven’t really had a full discussion as a committee of the whole or as a council on the tax abatement issue,” he said. “That’s something we need to do before we act on something like this. Right now, I think you would get several different opinions as to abatement or any public investment and how we should proceed.”
Young said he personally feels there needs to be specific discussion on proceeding with the project with abatement, as well as how it would affect the public and the city. He said he would prefer to get discussion under way before the normal council summer break.
“I personally would like to have the discussion sooner rather than later,” he said.
Campbell said Friday that abatements or public investments serve a dual purpose.
“They certainly enhance a project and make it easier to proceed with the additional assistance,” he said. “But an abatement shows backing from the city, in this case Bay Village, which the public sees and sees that it has support from the affected community.”
Campbell said that government support leads to support and interest from the public, which leads to projects such as the luxury apartments in Rocky River and Lakewood selling quickly, which benefits all the parties involved.
Himself a Bay Village resident, Campbell said the project will enhance the city.