Oregon City Administrator Mike Beazley said he expects changes to House Bill 289, which limits the creation and renewal of Joint Economic Development Zones (JEDZ).
The Ohio House of Representatives passed the bill in February. If passed by the senate and signed into law, the bill would phase out the creation and renewal of JEDZs.
Currently, municipalities can enter into JEDZ agreements with each other or with townships. Revenue collected from employees and businesses within a JEDZ is used for expanded growth for commercial or economic development within the zone.
Oregon has three JEDZs – one with Toledo and two with Northwood, according to Beazley.
Opponents consider JEDZ a “tax grab,” while supporters call it a valuable economic development tool.
Beazley said he recently discussed the bill and its ramifications on the economy with State Rep. Kirk Schuring, who sponsored the bill in the House, as well as local legislators, including State Rep. Mike Sheehy, State Sen. Randy Gardner, State Rep. Barbara Sears, Toledo Mayor D. Mike Collins, and Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada.
“This morning, we had a follow up session with just a couple of us who spoke with the sponsor and we made considerable progress in a way that serves Oregon’s interests,” Beazley said at a council meeting on Monday.
“Oregon, because of our geography, deals with adjacent municipalities, and we think that the sponsor is going to work toward two changes in the legislation,” he said. One of those changes is an amendment to the bill that would grandfather in existing JEDZs.
“The methods we use to achieve our objectives would remain in place for municipality to municipality, which is a prime concern to the city of Oregon,” said Beazley. The second change would give municipalities the authority to continue to make such agreements with other municipalities.
“We think both will be among the changes that the sponsor will support,” said Beazley.
The city is seeking a future JEDZ with Jerusalem Township, he added, but the legislation would make it tough to do.
“With the way this legislation is currently crafted, it could be difficult for Oregon to work through some agreements. It would limit the ability or authority of people within a township to vote to approve a district like this over the objection of a very small number of property owners. It could take away from the right of that township to move forward and enter into an agreement with an adjoining municipality such as Oregon,” said Beazley.
“This is one of the few tools available to places like Oregon so that we could work together for projects in adjacent communities instead of competing against each other. That’s why I love [JEDZ]. I’ve been involved in too many negotiations,” he said. Most of Toledo’s JEDZs agreements have been with Lucas County “and most of them have worked fairly well.”
There has been abuse establishing JEDZs in other communities in the state, he said, which sparked support for the bill.
“There have been some challenges. I think there were abuses in some other communities where people ended up feeling they were tax grabs. That’s not what’s going on in this market. We’ve had a meeting of the minds. People have to move forward to find some common interests. But there were some other places where there was some abuse in other communities and I think this legislation arose because of this sense of abuse. We’re going to end up with something passed. I’m almost certain. We expect some good changes coming out of our meeting,” he said.
“We will work again with Sen. Gardner, whose committee the bill will be sitting in. Gardner has extensive experience with these districts,” he said.