MOUNT VERNON — A piece of legislation proposed by the city to allow civil penalties to collect unpaid assessments for stormwater projects was dismissed Monday by City Council.
An amendment to the city’s stormwater ordinance was tabled indefinitely, effectively killing the measure. The amendment sought to allow the city to attach a lien to property taxes for delinquent assessments related to stormwater improvements as well as fines for violations of the stormwater ordinances.
Council heard from the city in an executive session at the beginning of Monday’s meeting about at least one case where the city had tried to collect on fines from a contractor. The contractor’s work is on the Colonial Estates subdivision.
The discussion was held in executive session as the case against the contractor is ongoing and therefore falls under pending litigation. The contractor was not named in the meeting; their attorney, Doug Lowe, however, spoke briefly in the open meeting but was cut off at council’s three-minute limit.
Discussion on the executive session came out during a Utilities Committee hearing, which was held after council came back into open session. Councilmember Chris Menapace said what he heard in executive session convinced him that the current ordinance, which allows the city to go after delinquent fines and fees through a criminal action, is enough. Menapace said the city had a chance to collect a $20,000 fine in the Colonial Estates case, but choose to waive it to get compliance from the contractor.
The city may soon have to draft legislation similar to that proposed in the amendment, according to City Engineer Brian Ball. Ball said the city’s EPA permit will likely be required to include similar language for assessments.
In other business, City Safety-Services Director Joel Daniels presented a map showing the boundaries of a Community Revitalization Area (CRA) around the old middle school on South Mulberry Street. The CRA has been requested by Joel Mazza, who plans to demolish the school and build apartments on the site. The CRA would allow council to grant Mazza property tax abatements on the new apartments.
The CRA, as proposed by Daniels, has the middle school property at the center, bordered by Pleasant Street on the north, North Main on the east, Sandusky Street to the west and Sugar Street to the south.
Daniels said he drew the CRA to include neighborhoods that have been affected by the middle school’s falling into disrepair. Under the CRA, residential housing can also apply for tax abatements on new construction.
Daniels said Mazza has requested a 15-year, 100 percent tax abatement.
The property value of the lot, once the middle school has been demolished, is $8,000. That would be the baseline for property taxes that Mazza will pay; the value of the property will go up as the apartments are constructed.
It will be up to council to set the parameters and the amount of the tax abatements. Discussion at Monday’s meeting suggests that Council favors a 10-year abatement that will begin Jan. 1 of 2020, and end by 2030, regardless of progress on the construction. Mazza has told the city he expects construction to be completed after about 5 years, meaning that under the CRA, he would only have five years of full tax abatements.
Councilmember Matt Starr further suggested the abatements decrease by 10 percent each year.
City Law Director Rob Broeren said that the city will require Mazza to post a $500,000 bond on the demolition of the school. If Mazza fails to go through with the demolition, the city can seize the bond and use it to tear down the school.
Council further heard from Mount Vernon Farmer’s Market representatives Paul Higgins and Michelle Duffy. The farmer’s market is requesting a permanent agreement that grants them the use of the square in writing; so far, the market has been promised use of the square on Saturdays under an informal agreement.
Higgens said that while the market is growing, he believes it will always fit within the square. He suggested that the market could turn down requests from vendors after it has filled a set number of spaces if it starts to run out of the room.
Council passed a resolution for engineering services for water and sewer lines in the Buckeye Addition and Parrott Street Extension. The Buckeye Addition will receive water service, while several businesses in the Parrott Street Extension which have city water will get sewer service, Ball said.
Menapace distributed copies of the city’s ideas for a stormwater utility. Council will look over the 22-page document and discuss the utility in a one-hour utility committee meeting before the next meeting of the council.
Mayor Richard Mavis presented a proclamation honoring Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s engineering program receiving accreditation.