By DENISE GRANT
Findlay Council continued to mull over the sale of a city-owned parking lot Tuesday, and what the price should be.
Council hosted an informal committee-of-the-whole meeting to take public comments about the proposed construction of a $31 million retail-residential development in the downtown. The complex would be built in the 500 block of South Main Street.
California developer and Findlay High School graduate Tim Youngpeter wants to buy the city parking lot behind The Wine Merchant and the former Rieck’s building for his proposed building project in and around the former Argyle apartment building space.
The Argyle space, across the street from Marathon Petroleum Corp. headquarters, has been vacant since 2012 when the apartment building was destroyed by fire.
Tuesday’s meeting attracted 35 people, but only two residents, not associated with the project, spoke. They expressed concerns about parking, the disruption to the downtown during the two-year construction, and alley access to a nearby church.
Representatives of the developer, along with Tim Mayle, director of Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development, seemed eager to answer questions and work on solutions.
The development’s parking would include 150-160 spaces, one for each of the 122 apartment units and the rest for public parking. Residents would pay a fee to park in the building and would be fined for using public parking there.
Public parking would be housed on the ground floor of the complex.
City Safety Director Paul Schmelzer said it would be up to council to set the rules for encroachment on public property during the construction. He said those rules would be part of site planning for the development, and would be covered by an event permit issued by the city to the developer, which is standard practice.
Developers are talking to officials from Trinity Episcopal Church, 128 W. Hardin St., which abuts the project to the west. Pastor John Drymon said he would like in writing whatever promises are made to address the need for Sunday parking and access to the church.
For council, the biggest remaining question appears to be the sale price of the parking lot.
Council on May 7 gave a first reading to legislation that will allow for the sale of the parking lot. Barring a vote to pass the legislation as an emergency measure, it will take three readings at council’s regular meetings to approve the sale.
The price listed in that agreement is $130,000, which raised both eyebrows and maybe some tempers. There has been no agreement on price. Based on Tuesday’s discussion, it’s going up.
According to information provided by the Hancock County commissioners, an offer they made to buy the parking lot from the city for $230,000 fell through in 2013.
The Blanchard Valley Port Authority offered $150,000 for the parking lot in April.
On Tuesday, a representative of the developer said the $130,000 figure listed in the legislation given to council was only meant to serve as a “good faith placeholder.”
By law, the city cannot sell public property directly to a private developer without putting it up for auction. The city can only sell the property directly to another government entity, like the port authority, which then can sell the property to a private entity.
There was also some discussion Tuesday about a deed restriction put on the property by the former Kirk Realty when it sold the lot to the city in the 1950s. The restriction gives the Realtor first right of refusal on the property if it is sold.
However, the restriction was meant to guarantee public parking, specifically for residents of the Argyle. The development may satisfy the restriction, or the restriction may now be defunct, according to the developers.
Hancock County Commissioner Tim Bechtol, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, is concerned about the loss of parking spaces for the county government. The current parking lot has 37 spaces designated for county use.
Construction of a new court building, and the expansion or possible construction of a new jail, could eliminate even more parking in the downtown in the next two years, he said.
Earlier this month, council members also asked for a breakdown of the impact of the construction on city revenue. The city currently earns about $13,000 a year from leasing parking space to the county, and an initial appraisal of the parking lot property put the value at $124,000.
The complex would be built within the city’s Community Reinvestment Area, which offers a temporary, 100 percent abatement of real estate taxes, based on the valuation of the new construction. The project would also qualify for sales tax abatements on construction materials.
However, gains in the city’s income tax, both from the earnings of construction workers, and eventually tenants, would boost city collections in the short term, and the expiration of the real estate abatement would eventually provide a larger jump in tax collections, Mayle said.
Sales tax abatements could total $240,250, with only $31,000 abated in Hancock County sales tax.
The amount of real estate taxes abated would depend on the valuation set for the new construction, but could range from $229,514 per year on a valuation of $10 million to $573,786 per year on a valuation of $25 million. The abatement could last up to eight years.
Findlay could also expect to collect about $155,000 in income tax on construction worker wages, one time, and then about $122,000 per year on the wages of tenants, assuming a $100,000 annual household income.