CH tax-abatement policy could lead to future problems
To the Editor,
This letter is in response to the article in the April edition of the Heights Observer regarding the Turkey Ridge CRA.
Cleveland Heights City Council, in concert with the City Planning Department, is offering tax abatement as a mechanism to spur development in the city, but I believe the process has serious flaws. First of all, I must state that I fully support the concept as a method to encourage development of housing stock within the community.
Tax abatement has been used here as a successful tool for development for some period of time. The Courtyards at Severence, Bluestone, 500 Severence, the development at Lee Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard and others have all benefited from this status. The abatement gives the developer a very attractive selling tool. It provides a real benefit to the buyers initially, in that they don't have a property tax bill for a period of time after move-in. The initial downside for the city is that the school district receives no income from the property. (This is quite serious as the district now takes on an extensive facilities renovation and remodeling project.)
I support the concept but believe that the abatement should be awarded only to the first buyer of the property. This will encourage the development, but avoids long-term and perhaps undesirable effects that could result. I worry that Cleveland Heights could be kicking a real housing problem down the road with the current form of tax abatement.
We have one of the top, if not the top, property tax rates in the state. While top earners may be able to cope with a sudden 30 to 60 percent increase in their monthly housing costs as the tax abatement expires, I don't believe the typical resident can easily muddle through. We have a significant number of foreclosures and vacant residences in the city, and I believe the current abatement status will only fuel this condition.
It's not too late for the city to amend its actions to benefit the developers and the community.
[Anderson serves on the Architectural Board of Review for the City of Cleveland Heights.]