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City to restart downtown business EIP grants

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By Kristin Beck

Downtown businesses looking for financial assistance to improve the exterior facades of their buildings may soon have the opportunity again to apply for a grant from the city.

For nearly two years, funds in the Enterprise Incentive Program account have been frozen because the program was not working the way city government thought it should. However, things may be thawing out, as city officials have begun to reconstruct the ordinance into something they are satisfied with.

Mayor Gene McMurry, members of Carrollton City Council, Main Street Program manager Sam Burgess and Code Enforcement Officer Art Zook met in an informal meeting Thursday to discuss changes to and begin re-writing the EIP ordinance.

Passed in 1995, the EIP program provides a 50/50 matching grant of up to $4,000 to businesses in the redevelopment district for signage and façade improvements. Funds may also be spent on improvements such as benches, new lighting and sidewalk replacement.

The redevelopment district covers from Seventh to Second streets and from the Ohio River to Highland Avenue. Starting in fiscal year 1996, 10 percent of all city property tax revenues were placed into a line item escrow account, not to exceed $50,000 for the program. Burgess said currently façade improvements may be made either by the property owner or by the renter with the owner’s permission.

Initial changes made to the EIP ordinance include designating the Main Street manager and Code Enforcement Officer as the disseminators of information for business owners interested in applying for a grant; eliminating unnecessary wordage; and deciding to no longer include the three historic, individually-listed city locations on the National Registry in the program.

Burgess explained to the group that the current ordinance allows the Masterson House, the Highland House Bed Breakfast and the P.T. Baker House to be eligible for EIP funds.

McMurry said he wanted to concentrate on the downtown area. “We can deal with them later, but right now, I want to put this money into the downtown business redevelopment area.”
Zook agreed, saying it would be simpler to concentrate only on the downtown area. “There is nothing to be said those couldn’t be included at a later date with an addendum instead of making this cumbersome again,” he said. “Instead, make it streamlined and (try) to do something that is going to bring downtown Carrollton back to the way it should and, hopefully we all think it will, come to be … Let’s keep it to downtown and see how this works for downtown.”

While the current maximum grant amount is $4,000, McMurry said he wants to see the city spend up to $25,000 once a year on one major business to establish them downtown and help with the renovations and start-up costs. “My goal (is) to get businesses in the downtown area,” he said, “to make it a more viable business center.”

Burgess cautioned against giving out larger quantities of money because there is currently no protection for the city if a business owner receives a grant and then goes out of business the next day.

To address this issue, an addition was written stating that if a business uses incentives for improvements and ceases to operate within five years, the business owner will be required to re-pay the incentive on a depreciating scale. McMurry said they will need to talk to City Attorney Nick Marsh for additional legal advice on what the city can do.

McMurry also emphasized that he wants the façade improvement to include the backs of the buildings. “Façade” was redefined as those sides of the building visible by the street and/or by the river.

Once the business owner has talked to either Burgess or Zook and submitted an application, DRB will discuss it and then, as the administrator of DRB, Zook will present it to council for final approval. Here, council can decide to approve it, refer it back to the business owner for amendments or more information or decide not to allow the owner’s participation in the program.

The ordinance will continue to be reworked before it is re-submitted to city council for final approval.

 

Bartley presents ideas for dance studio expansion

Mayor Gene McMurry invited Katrina Bartley to the meeting to talk about the move and expansion of Katrina’s School of Dance. Bartley recently purchased the UAW building at 312 Main Street. She said she wants to put in a glass front with two windows and a door, replace the awning and, down the road, pave the gravel parking lot.

Phase two of construction project will be taking part of the back of the building and making it into a room to rent for meetings, bridal showers, etc.

Bartley said she would also like to paint the exterior with an “urban chic” look and possibly put up a mural of ballet point shoes with an inspirational saying underneath, painted by a friend.

McMurry advised Bartley to get her design together to present to the Design and Review Board. Councilman Mike Gordon said at one time the Presbyterian Church wanted to take out the stained glass windows and put in a mural. Their proposal was rejected, but he wasn’t sure if it was because they were taking out the windows or because of the mural.