By Tim Cox
Mercer County Commissioners are moving forward with plans to create a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district in rural Hopewell Township where a mega dairy has been granted state permits to build.
The TIF will allow the county to divert some of the additional property tax revenue gained from improvements to the site to put toward infrastructure in the area. The TIF funding is expected to mainly be used to improve area roads to accommodate truck traffic to and from the 2,100-head dairy farm.
The current plan is for the TIF to include only the 64-acre farm at the northeast corner of the intersection of Tama and Township Line roads. No other land would be included.
The proposed road improvements include resurfacing and berms on Township Line and Hawk roads, bridge improvements along Township Line Road and widening and rebuilding sections of Township Line and Tama roads. The costs are currently estimated at $700,000.
"This will build those roads to higher load standards," county Community Development Director Larry Stelzer said. Without the improvements, "the heavy trucks would tear up those roads," he added. The resolution that commissioners plan to approve Nov. 3 says the TIF zone will be exempt from 75 percent of real estate taxes for 10 years and the money instead will be diverted into the TIF account. The remaining 25 percent will go to the school district and other township and countywide tax levies.
Commissioners sent a letter to the superintendents of the Parkway and Vantage Vocational School districts this week informing them of their plans.
If approved, the TIF is expected to generate about $135,803 annually from the proposed $8.4 million in improvements and new construction at the dairy site.
The county has other TIF zones to help fund infrastructure to support industry, but this is the first TIF for an agricultural project, Stelzer said.
Some neighbors of the proposed dairy farm opposed the plan to build the mega farm near their homes. Nov. 3 is the deadline for residents to appeal the dairy farm's Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) permits to the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission.
The Dutch-owned dairy is expected to have three large barns to house a total of 2,100 cows. Estimates show the farm would produce 20 million gallons of liquid manure annually. Farms with more than 699 mature dairy cows are considered mega farms under Ohio law and require ODA permits to operate and also must have comprehensive management plans for dealing with potential problems.