April 17, 2014

Elyria
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Avon winces, passes tax deal

AVON — Avon City Council begrudgingly approved Monday the first resolution required to create a new Interstate 90 interchange.

The resolution outlined the general concept of the joint economic development zone between the initial partners — Avon and the city of Cleveland. The deal calls for Avon to send half of the income tax money brought in by any business that relocates from Cleveland back to the city for five years after the move.

In the near future, 15 other communities in the region — including Avon Lake, Elyria, Elyria Township, Lorain, North Ridgeville, Sheffield, Sheffield Lake and Sheffield Township —  as well as others on the west side of Cleveland will vote on whether to join the zone as well, which would mean that they too would be compensated if a business relocates anytime in the next 30 years.

The agreement affects only companies that have a payroll of more than $750,000. For a company with that size payroll, it would work out to about $5,600 in lost revenue for Avon annually, according to Avon Mayor Jim Smith.

The deal came as part of a stipulated agreement after months of discussions with the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency.

The agency had to approve the $19 million interchange at Nagel Road before Avon could go ahead with its construction even though no federal or state money is being used to build it.

Avon offered the development zone after Cuyahoga County officials who are NOACA voting members opted for a controversial weighted vote — increasing the power of each vote cast by those officials. Without the deal, the interchange likely would have been rejected.

The controversial vote has had fallout as officials from both Lorain and Medina counties have raised concerns that Cuyahoga County officials might make concessions a requirement of any deal to the outlying counties in the future, and they have talked about leaving NOACA and joining another regional planning agency.

The interchange was approved Oct. 12, and Avon City Council had 30 days to approve the joint economic development zone, said Avon Planning Coordinator Jim Piazza, who added that Cleveland officials had contacted him Monday to see how things were going.

The vote Monday was preliminary — the legal paperwork spelling out the details of the zone won’t be completed for a month or more.

Councilman Dennis McBride, 2nd Ward, said he didn’t approve of the ethics behind the deal, but he approved the resolution anyway.

“(Cuyahoga County officials) have done nothing but back this city into a corner,” McBride said.

At-Large Councilman Craig Witherspoon echoed McBride’s sentiment, but he voted for it, too, as did everyone else on the Council.

“It’s not a comfortable feeling, but it’s something that needs to be done,” Witherspoon said.

Contact Stephen Szucs at 336-4016 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.