October 22, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
45°F

Lafayette Twp. zoning fixes needed for tech park, officials say

LAFAYETTE TWP. — Medina County Commissioner Adam Friedrich said zoning changes are needed to attract businesses to a proposed economic development district in the University Center Innovation Park.

“There are some light industrial companies that we could attract with only slight modifications to the zoning language,” Friedrich said.

University Center Innovation Park, located along Technology Boulevard, north of state Route 162, is owned by the Medina County Port Authority and is part of a Community Reinvestment Area project approved in 2012.

While the approximately 70-acre park offers tax abatements, so far its only occupant is the University of Akron’s Medina County University Center.

In an effort to draw businesses, county commissioners and Lafayette Township trustees are planning to create a joint economic development district that will charge employees at businesses there Medina city’s 1.25 percent income tax and split the revenue 50/50 between the city and township.

Up to 20 percent of the revenue generated by income taxes would go into a maintenance fund that would be spent on infrastructure improvements for potential businesses, such as landscaping or sidewalk improvements for which they otherwise would have to pay.

But Friedrich said zoning regulations also are a barrier to development because they restrict the types of businesses that can operate in the park.

Friedrich said possible changes will be discussed at a meeting tonight between the township trustees and Zoning Commission.

Township Trustee Lynda Bowers said the purpose of the meeting is to map the borders of the proposed JEDD. But broader issues also would be tackled, she said.

“It will probably be one of the most important meetings we’ll have had in the last four years, I suspect,” she said. “I think we need to make some decisions and see where we can all go from here to make that park work.”

The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. at the township hall, 6776 Wedgewood Road.

Friedrich, who will attend the meeting, said the zoning is too restrictive and prohibits light industry from locating in the park. Light industrial businesses include the manufacturing of clothing, furniture consumer electronics and home appliances.

Bowers agreed, saying the zoning originally was aimed at attracting high-tech industries.

“A lot of the businesses we might want don’t even look at the tech park because the zoning language is so prohibitive,” she said. “The concern is that when that zoning was drafted, it was drafted more with an eye toward what we want.

“It’s probably more prudent to make sure that zoning keeps out what we don’t want.”

Friedrich said new zoning regulations, combined with the completion of the $14 million “fiber loop” network, would make the park more attractive to companies.

The port authority-owned 151-mile, 144-strand fiber-optic network was completed in April and can provide high-bandwidth connections to businesses, local governments, schools and libraries.

“In the past we’ve been marketing that it’s coming, and now we can market that it’s there and hopefully that’s a selling point,” he said.

The proposed JEDD agreement is expected to be approved by township trustees and Medina City Council by the end of October.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.