City council votes ‘no’ 4-3 on CRA second reading; opponents say it will harm schools, supporters say it will help housing crunch

By John Hamilton -

City council had a passionate, yet civil, discussion about the CRA ordinance at Thursday’s meeting.

City council had a passionate, yet civil, discussion about the CRA ordinance at Thursday’s meeting.

John Hamilton | News Journal

WILMINGTON — A proposed ordinance regarding new housing construction and a tax exemption failed to get a second reading at Thursday’s Wilmington City Council meeting.

Four council members — Kristi Fickert, Bill Liermann, Michael Snarr and Kelsey Swindler — voted against the second reading of an ordinance that would establish a 15-year Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) with 100% exemption. This would be an extension of the current five-year CRA, also with a 100% exemption.

According to the Ohio Department of Development’s website (, a CRA is an “economic development tool administered by municipal and county government that provides real property tax exemptions for property owners who renovate existing or construct new buildings.”

While the “no” voters acknowledged the need for more housing in the area, they didn’t think it would be worth potentially hurting the schools.

“People are going to want housing here,” said Fickert. “But they’re not going to move here with children if we don’t have quality schools.”

Councilmember Jonathan McKay — who voted for a second reading along with Matt Purkey and Nick Eveland — said he favored the ordinance after speaking with community members and employers, and reaching out to neighboring communities and counties.

“We’re in a desperate need for housing,” said McKay. “These houses that will be built are going to solve a lot of issues in our community, not only in Wilmington but in our county.”

Joseph and Alan Cristo of Cristo Homes Inc. were present at the meeting, and said they want to deliver affordable housing. Joseph Cristo said a goal of theirs is to enter communities with good schools and communities that “want to work with the builders.”

Those who voted “no” also cited that it may create issues with the school’s tax renewal slated for the November ballot. School officials told council at the previous meeting they were worried it would affect their income tax earnings.

The News Journal had reported after the Sept. 16 council meeting that Dan Evers, Executive Director of the Clinton County Port Authority, told council this legislation was proposed after a developer had been in contact with the Port Authority, wanting to build residential housing within the city limits. Evers said then that the houses built there could draw more earnings for the school than what the area currently draws in for them.

Currently the undisclosed areas analyzed currently generate approximately $564 in revenue for the Wilmington City School District, due to the area being under the Current Agriculture Use Value (CAUV) program. This allows farmland devoted to commercial agriculture exclusively to be valued on their value in agriculture.

Currently, the area draws in $564 for the schools as CAUV.

The model used assumed the development would lead to 220 new homes with an average sale price of $220,000 of which $40,000 will be attributed to the land value.

Evers stated in September that such a development would help with the city’s “housing stock” and keep people in the area as well as bringing new people in, and it could encourage other developers to want to build in Wilmington.

Wilmington City Schools Superintendent Mindy McCarty-Stewart objected to the legislation at the previous council meeting despite “being torn” about it.

“We know there’s a housing crisis here. I could probably retain employees here and teachers by having some type of housing like this,” McCarty-Stewart said then. But she said she couldn’t get behind this CRA because it would have negative effect on the school’s income tax earnings.

“So you can see that Wilmington is a good place to live because you’re very low on taxes,” said Curt Bone, WCS Director of Business Operations, at the meeting. “We’re just concerned these houses will bring in new students, and you’re taking away our ability to raise the income to support them. And that puts us at a disadvantage on how to support those kids without going to the taxpayers.”

Also during council:

• Mayor John Stanforth announced Cody Romohr as the new Landfill Superintendent. Romohr had been serving as the interim superintendent since the resignation of Mike Crowe in July.

City council had a passionate, yet civil, discussion about the CRA ordinance at Thursday’s meeting. council had a passionate, yet civil, discussion about the CRA ordinance at Thursday’s meeting. John Hamilton | News Journal

By John Hamilton

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574