CANFIELD, Ohio — In a vote of 3 to 1, members of CIty Council and Mayor Richard Duffett approved the Millennial Moments joint economic development district, or JEDD, agreement at its meeting Wednesday evening.
Councilman Bruce Neff was the only dissenting vote while Charles Tieche was absent from the meeting.
The vote brings to a close nearly two years of negotiations between the city and Canfield Township after the former attempted to annex the 111-acre property at U.S. Route 224 and South Palmyra Road from the township in early 2017. At the time, township officials asked Mahoning County Commissioners not to annex the property until the possibility of a JEDD or other agreement had been discussed with the city and the project’s developer, FJA Developers.
FJA is owned by Frank Amedia, co-founder and pastor of Touch Heaven Ministries. Millennial Moments is a $100 million upscale residential development Amedia plans to build.
Duffett reminded the some 14 residents in attendance that the negotiations had been ongoing between two administrations — his and that of former Mayor Bernie Kosar Sr. The new administration had to be brought up to speed before continuing the negotiations with the township, he said.
“It seems that it’s taken longer to get to this point than the Treaty of Versailles,” Duffett said. “But it was worth it going through all of that. It is a thing that I think is good for the city and I think is good for the township.”
Duffett echoed sentiments of township officials after their vote on Aug. 14 that the agreement isn’t perfect for either party. But, he said, “It’s been hacked out enough and talked about enough with the public” that there have been several opportunities to bring up any concerns or problems with the project.
“The revenue stream for the city is going to be good for everything,” he said. “So I’m for it.”
Township Trustee Marie Izzo Cartwright was in attendance for the vote and said she is “very pleased” with how things turned out. Cartwright was on the negotiating team on behalf of the township. Township trustees unanimously approved the JEDD last month.
In casting the dissenting vote, Councilman Neff said he believed they should have done more to annex the property.
While Neff said he liked Amedia’s plan for Millennial Moments, “The development, I feel, should be part of the city.” He contended that the city should have waited until it had completed and implemented its comprehensive plan with updated zoning rules.
“I’m all for the future development and progress,” he said.
The city’s attorney, Mark Fortunato, countered Neff’s argument that there is no comprehensive plan. While the city is working on a new plan, Fortunato said there is an older plan in place.
“You might not like our comprehensive plan,. You may not think it’s the best comprehensive plan you’ve ever seen, but it exists,” he said. “We’re certainly trying to improve that plan.”
Per the JEDD agreement, the city will provide water, sewer and stormwater utility services to the area, and collect 1% income tax from businesses or residents who occupy the JEDD area, said the city’s manager, Wade Calhoun.
The township will retain zoning controls, property taxes and will provide other infrastructure services, including street, road work and security, he said.
In addition to the JEDD agreement, council unanimously voted to approve the annexation of the 288-acre Red Gate property, which sits along Leffingwell Road to the south of the Millennial Moments property, as well as some 15 acres owned by MALA Properties Ltd. The city purchased the Red Gate property in 2003, but hasn’t developed the farmland that resides in the township, Calhoun said. Annexing the property into the city would allow it to develop the property and provide water, sewer and police services, he said.
Mayor Duffett expressed his enthusiasm for this agreement as well, saying that it will benefit the west end of Canfield and the city as a whole.
“People want to move to Canfield,” Duffett said. “There’s no doubt about it. The statistics reveal that. Now we have an opportunity to develop two areas.”
Calhoun and the city’s engineer, Dave Tabak of MS Consultants Inc., have been working on plans for the property. Council President John Morvay recalls discussions of developing Red Gate when he first joined the council seven years ago, he said. He remembers the consideration to sell the property outright.
“What a mistake that would have been,” Morvay said. “And what an opportunity we have in front of us here to expand Canfield. And the community appreciates the township working with us on these couple JEDDs that we’ve put together.”
City and township officials are hopeful that the Millennial Moments JEDD will mirror the success of the JEDD approved in 2015, which resulted in the construction of the 60,000-square-foot Windsor House at Canfield nursing home and rehabilitation center. The $12 million center created 72 full-time jobs.
One resident voiced concern over how much development would occur on the property. Fortunato reminded those in attendance that there are limitations to the types of development allowed at the site, such as limiting residential development to only single-family homes, and “a general prohibition against big box stores and heavy industrial,” he said. Plans also call for a buffer area.
Former councilman Joe LoCicero addressed council and cautioned them that expanding population would require increased services and possibly larger schools, thus increasing the burden on taxpayers.
“Be careful. Because if you grow the population, the only beneficiaries are the people who work for the city. Not the city,” LoCicero said. “A lot of people want to move to Canfield, but they go to the township because they don’t want to pay the 1% [income tax].
“What I want to hear you say is you’re going to raise revenue without raising taxes,” he added. “That’s what I thought this was all about.”
Council assured LoCicero that was the goal, and the mayor added that the schools can handle more students. Duffett, who graduated from Canfield High School in 1977, said the school “still isn’t graduating the same number of people that I graduated with.” He clarified that increasing the population will increase the revenue for the city.
“We have room for development of homes. Our schools can handle way more,” he said. “But we need the income revenue stream right now, and this will be able to do that.”
After the vote, Amedia added that developing retail with the JEDD as well as Red Gate will create an economic multiplier effect. It’s “pretty common” in city planning that creating one new dollar in an area will generate at least three more, he said. With Millennial Moments expected to invest more than $100 million in the area, “and Red Gate, which is potentially one-and-a-half times that,” Canfield stands to see a substantial return even if only half of what is invested is retained.
“Your landscapers, the people who maintain the homes, the service companies, all of the different revenue that comes with it — the weddings that are held, the graduation parties,” he said. “You just allow your mind to think about the Christmas shopping that goes on. You can’t put that kind of a number on what it will bring to the community.”
Amedia left the meeting pleased with the vote and excited for the potential, he said. “I think it’s probably going to be the largest growth area in the Mahoning County in the next 10 years.”
And while development can’t begin until water and sewer lines are installed, Amedia is hopeful that come spring, “You’ll see me out there on a bulldozer.” Fully developing the 111-acre Millennial Moments luxury lifestyle center and retail center will take about five to six years.
The plan calls for nearly 35,000 square feet of retail space facing Route 224, with more than 10 acres available for future development.
The multigenerational residential area includes two-story fourplex townhouses, two-story lakefront townhouses, single-family villas and 51 custom home lots. Other amenities would include a natural lake, 580-foot preserved stream, swim pond, 3,500-square-foot clubhouse, a 120-unit community living center and walking trails.