The Suffield Township Tax Incentive Review Council (TIRC) met on Monday March 6th to review the status of businesses that applied for and received property tax CRA and TIF agreements from Portage County. There are currently three businesses in Suffield Township that have tax reduction agreements. Two of these businesses have met their commitments for 2016 and received the recommendation of the TIRC for continued tax reductions into 2017. They are G.P. Tree Service and Hunter's Manufacturing. In 2004, the business partners who planned the west-side development known as "Tuscany at the Portage" also applied for and received a 30-year 100% property tax reallocation from the county commissioners. Since there has been no movement to live up to the terms of the agreement since that time, the TIRC is recommending that the agreement be rescinded. The TIRC will be asking the Suffield Township Board of Trustees to recommend to the current Portage County Board of Commissioners that they end the agreement with "Tuscany at the Portage".
The "Tuscany at the Portage" was a controversial undertaking about a decade ago when a group of businessmen, headed by well-known local physician Dennis McCluskey, planned a development on the old Portage Hills Vineyard property at the corner of Martin Road and State Route 224. The plan was to make a community which featured condos, medical offices, a library and some retail stores all designed to resemble a village in the Tuscany area of Italy, hence the name "Tuscany at the Portage". Plans were made for sewers, water and the property was rezoned to accommodate residential, retail and medical facility use. The "Great Recession" came along and the plan was pretty much abandoned. No buildings were built, no sewers or water lines were installed and no roads were built, thus no actual money was spent on infrastructure.
The tax reduction agreements were actually part of a TIF (tax increment financing), which allows a developer to pay their property tax in full, but be reimbursed for monies spent on things like roads, sewers and other infrastructures. At the time the county commissioners approved the TIF for "Tuscany at the Portage", the Field school board was on board (no pun intended) with the project and project therefore could received up to 100% of their taxes paid for up to 30 years. Without the school board agreeing, the most a TIF could be is 75% of the property tax for up to 10 years. Tax increment financing (TIF) is a public financing method that is used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure, and other community-improvement projects. Under this particular TIF agreement, the type of public improvements were: roadwork, parking deck, water and sewer.
The TIRC will be sending a letter to the Suffield Township Board of Trustees recommending the TIF be rescinded. It will then be up to the Board of Trustees to ask the county Board of Commissioners to terminate the tax agreement. At the TIRC meeting, questions were raised about any further development of the same property. If the Board of Commissioners terminate the TIF, any new developer could apply for a new TIF arrangement. The property is currently owned by the ASW 224LLC of Akron, according to the Portage County Auditor's tax records.
Above is the 2017 Suffield Township Tax Incentive Review Council. Standing is County Auditor Janet Esposito, Vice Chairman John Yeargin, Paul Young and Jim Albertoni. Seated are Laura May, Alesha Wilson and Chairman Jeff Childers.