County Preparing for TIF Expansion

The Ohio County Commission will hear comments regarding its plan to expand the tax increment financing district at The Highlands during an upcoming public hearing.

The hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 13 at the commission office, Room 215 of the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St. Expansion of the TIF district is expected to help the county generate funds needed to construct a second Interstate 70 interchange on the back half of the site. The second interchange is something commissioners say is necessary for more development and for traffic and safety reasons.

A related state law must also be passed that would allow the county’s development arm, the Ohio County Development Authority, to use TIF for the project.

The law calls for expanding the existing TIF district from 300 to 500 acres. The expansion would encompass nearby car dealerships and other businesses across Interstate 70, allowing the OCDA to benefit from the sales tax generated by those businesses.

That money could then be used to cover the cost of building the interchange.

During the hearing, property owners inside the proposed expansion area can give input on the plan, along with members of the public.

A copy of a related map is expected to be made available to the public at the commission office.

“The special district excise tax to be imposed on sales of tangible personal property and services made from business locations in the district expanded by the proposed modification shall be at the rate of 6 cents on the dollar of sales or services,” the notice states.

In 2006, the county estimated the interchange would cost about $23 million and an interior access road about $15 million.

Ohio County Commissioner Randy Wharton said related bills have been drafted in the House and Senate and likely will be introduced at any moment. Wharton said last year during a County Commissioners Association workshop in Charleston, state Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox urged public officials to come up with creative ways to fund new road projects because the state did not have the money to pay for them. That’s when the commission developed the idea of expanding the TIF district.

“It was a little late last year to get it done – we did not have enough time. We started earlier this year. I’ve been told (Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin) is on board with us,” Wharton said, adding he believes local legislators are also supportive. “Once the bill is introduced and the reports are sent to the development office, it’s up to the development office to sign off on it.”

Wharton said the public hearing is part of the application process required by the state development office.

“We’re simply doing what the secretary told us to do and this is a great way (to fund the interchange.) … The way we worked it, the development is paying for itself,” Wharton said.