By Ed Runyan
Officials from Newton Falls and Braceville Township are likely to meet to discuss a draft Joint Economic Development District contract early in 2014 that they believe will encourage development along state Route 5 near the Ohio Turnpike.
The district would be in the township but adjacent to village property, said Jack Haney, Newton Falls manager.
“At exits, usually you see restaurants, truck stops and service stations,” Haney said, but at the Braceville exit, there are hotels and motels, but it could be much busier.
One of the first goals will be to encourage restaurants to come into that location to serve the hotels and motels, Haney said.
In order to attract them, Newton Falls would extend utilities to the area such as water and electricity without the need for the area to be annexed into Newton Falls.
The village municipal power utility might be able to supply the area at the “inside rate,” which is the price residents of Newton Falls pay, Haney said. Currently there are areas of Braceville Township that receive Newton Falls electricity, but they pay a higher rate, he said.
In exchange for utilities, the agreement calls for utility customers in the district to pay a half of 1 percent income tax for the first two years of the JEDD. It would increase to three-quarters of 1 percent in the third and fourth years and 1 percent — the same as Newton Falls residents pay — after five years.
The proposed JEDD also has language that addresses where hotel/motel taxes will go: 60 percent to the township, 40 percent to Newton Falls.
Newton Falls and Braceville officials have talked about forming the JEDD for several years now, but this time Haney thinks it will be finalized.
Aaron Young, a Braceville trustee, said the first draft of the JEDD was written in May 2012, but more pressing matters left it on the back burner.
Details that still need to be worked out are how to divide the income tax and property tax that would be generated in the district, and how existing property taxes and hotel-motel taxes would be affected.
“We want to have economic development in that area within an agreement that pairs development with utilities,” Young said.
Another benefit of the JEDD, if it is completed, will be to improve the cooperation between Newton Falls and Braceville Township, Young said.
Already, the two communities have talked about linking a multipurpose hike and bike trail in Newton Falls with a potential bike and hike trail that Braceville Township would like to build.
Both trails use the same abandoned rail line, Young said, and Braceville Township owns the portion that runs through the township. One of the bigger costs associated with the Braceville Township part of the trail will be finding a way to cross the west branch of the Mahoning River. A train trestle that used to carry trains over the river is gone, Young said.