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CIC clashes with council



Published: Wed, July 27, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The board postponed the sale of three buildings.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- City officials on the downtown redevelopment agency board gave fellow members an earful about the relationship the organization has with them.

Councilman Rufus Hudson, D-2nd, told other members of the Youngstown Area Community Improvement Corp. at Tuesday's board meeting that he is tired of the agency seeking city dollars for projects, and never giving any of its profits to the city.

"When does Youngstown get a return on its investment?" Hudson asked CIC members.

Councilwoman Carol Rimedio-Righetti, D-4th and a CIC member, said the downtown agency asks city council to act on legislation without an explanation.

For example, she said, the CIC needed approval on legislation by an emergency measure to file an application seeking money from the Clean Ohio Fund. The money is to be used toward demolition and environmental remediation at the future site of the $5.2 million Youngstown Technology Center.

Upset with its relationship with the CIC, council voted 5-2 last week against approving legislation by an emergency measure to file the application, and instead gave it a first reading.

"You have to come to us and let us know what you need from us," Rimedio-Righetti said.

Fee dispute

The two council members also complained about development fees the CIC charges businesses moving into downtown buildings it owns. The fee, ranging from 5 percent to 10 percent of the project, is split equally between the CIC and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, which provides staff and services to the agency.

The CIC board approved Tuesday paying $82,000 to the chamber for its half of the development fee on the construction of a 7th District Court of Appeals building.

Hudson and Rimedio-Righetti voted against paying the chamber.

Mark Brown, head of CIC's property committee and general manager of The Vindicator, said the city has repeatedly asked the agency to be more self-sustaining because the city doesn't have the money to fund the CIC. The city benefits from CIC projects through tax revenue and the rehabilitation of dilapidated downtown buildings, he said.

The full board also opted Tuesday not to accept the recommendation last week from its property committee to move ahead with the sale of three downtown buildings.

The committee voted 4-2 to recommend the $24,000 sale to P & amp;P Development even though the agency would give up its right to reclaim the buildings if the $1.7 million project failed.

Edwin Romero, CIC legal counsel, was supposed to meet with John Dellick, P & amp;P's attorney, and officials from Key Bank to discuss the agency's ability to reclaim the buildings if the project fell through. Key Bank gave P & amp;P a $1 million loan commitment letter for the project.

That meeting hasn't been held, although it was supposed to have taken place Tuesday.

Building acquisition

Three of the property committee members who recommended the proposal last week said they weren't prepared to proceed with the P & amp;P project until the reclamation issue was resolved. The proposal was referred to the property committee.

The board voted to delay a decision on selling the buildings. However, the CIC and the city still want the project to be a reality, and will do what is needed to get the deal done, said Mayor George M. McKelvey, a CIC member.

P & amp;P wants to buy three vacant buildings on West Federal Street: the Wells Building, the Armed Forces building and the State Theater. Discussions between P & amp;P and the CIC have been ongoing for more than 18 months.

P & amp;P plans to improve the Wells Building with a restaurant, retail stores, office space and about five high-end studio apartments. The company also plans to keep the facades of the two other buildings, demolish the rest and use that space for parking.

skolnick@vindy.com




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