County Council allows tax rebate for retailer
By Kathleen Folkerth
DOWNTOWN AKRON — The retail landscape of Akron may see some changes after Summit County Council voted May 21 to allow a specialty outdoor sports retailer to receive a rebate of sales taxes for a 10-year period.
During a special Council meeting held between committee meetings, Council voted unanimously to allow the county to execute an agreement with Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World that will enable it to receive 75 percent of sales taxes paid on its merchandise.
The proposed store will be in a still-being-developed area of the east side of Akron where Goodyear plans to build a new headquarters.
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic appeared before Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee earlier in the evening to explain the project.
“This is a retail development surrounding the Goodyear property,” Plusquellic said. “Goodyear wants people to see a revitalized area.”
Plusquellic said developer Stu Lichter, of Industrial Real Estate Group, has been negotiating the deal.
“I have confidence he can put this project together,” Plusquellic said.
But he added that at this point, there is just a verbal commitment to the project by Springfield, Mo.-based Bass Pro Shops, which operates 40 Outdoor World stores in the United States and Canada. In Ohio, Cincinnati is home to a store, while a location in Rossford, near Toledo, is currently under construction. The company also sells products through a catalog and online.
Council members had some questions about the project but overall expressed their support and optimism about the idea.
Councilwoman Louise Heydorn (R-District 3) said she has seen the development and opening of an Outdoor World location where her daughter lives, and believes the project is “a wonderful thing.”
“If you can imagine Montrose times four, that is what’s happened,” she said, noting that the store led to more retail developments as well as hotels and restaurants in its vicinity. “It’s an incredible facility.”
The Outdoor World stores carry outdoor recreational products like hunting, fishing, boating and camping equipment. The stores also feature interactive attractions like huge aquariums stocked with fish, waterfalls and climbing walls.
Akron City Councilman Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10), in whose ward the development is proposed, also said he’s visited an Outdoor World store in Nashville.
“The growth that surrounds this is incredible,” he said.
The deal that is being brokered had to come before Council so that the county’s sales tax dollars could be used as a negotiating tool. Council, which just received the legislation regarding the issue at its May 14 meeting, had to act quickly because the state law that allows such a deal expires June 1.
According to information provided by Plusquellic, the rebate to Bass Pro Shops will be about $150,000 a year for 10 years, based on what he said was a conservative estimate of $40 million in sales a year.
For Akron, Plusquellic said the deal is a good one because the city will earn money from income taxes and Goodyear will remain in the city.
“It’s a win for the county ... and a win for us,” he said.
In other business, Council’s Committee-of-the-Whole recommended Council approval of one piece of legislation regarding a levy for the November General Election for Summit County Children Services (SCCS). The legislation requests the fiscal office certify to the taxing authority the current tax valuation of the county and the dollar amount of revenue that would be generated by the replacement levy.
Gary Binns, director of finance, said SCCS plans to build a visitation center at an estimated cost of $700,000. He said previous plans called for a much larger, two-story facility that would also serve as a respite center, which would have cost about $3 million.
But when asked how large the visitation center would be, Chief Operating Officer Katerina Pappas said there were no details for the project yet.
Children Services Board Trustees President Cindy Johnson was asked how the board is addressing negative perceptions regarding the relationship between it and staff. Johnson said the board members have “entered into a dialogue to move the campaign forward.”
“We’re well on our way,” she said.
She added that some of the newly appointed board members have met with members of the staff’s union, the Commercial Workers of America (CWA).
But Robin Schenault, president of the CWA Local 4546, spoke before the committee and said any meetings held with board members were held at the union’s request.
Council members were unanimous in expressing their opinion that the levy does need to get on the ballot and pass this year.
“It is absolutely critical that this levy pass this year for the fiscal health of the whole county,” said Pete Crossland (D-at large).
According to Binns, the 2.25-mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $68 a year, compared to the current $58.
The committee put the second piece of legislation, which allows the levy to be placed before voters, on second reading only. Crossland said it’s typical for Council to approve the fiscal office legislation first.
During Council’s Finance Committee meeting, the committee recommended passage of the county’s annual $50,000 grant to the Akron Art Museum that goes toward its new building. The museum is scheduled to reopen in July.
Because of the evening’s lengthy agenda, the Health and Human Services Committee meeting was postponed to May 30 at 4:30 p.m.
Council will not meet May 28 because of the Memorial Day holiday. Council is scheduled to meet June 4 at 5:30 p.m. for caucus and 6 p.m. for the regular meeting in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St.