By Gina Mace
Special to the Beacon Journal
CUYAHOGA FALLS: City Council voted Monday against a proposed tax break for an upscale GetGo gas station with a restaurant inside.
Giant Eagle representative Justin Evans has said that without a property tax abatement the store and gas station the company plans to build on the corner of State Road and Portage Trail will not include a $3.2 million upscale GetGo Kitchen.
Council voted 7-4 to deny the tax break.
The abatement would have been the smallest the city has offered: $26,000 a year for four years for a total of $104,000.
Falls Development Director Sue Truby said even with the abatement, Woodridge school district’s share of the property tax would nearly double during the four years from the current $8,744 to $16,509. After the abatement, the school district’s share would have jumped to $36,319.
“Any deal we put together, the first thing we look at is how it affects the school district,” Truby said. “If we can’t match [the current tax] or do better, we include other incentive-type things in the package, like scholarships or jobs for Woodridge students or graduates.”
Truby said this deal far exceeded the school’s current share.
Ward 4 Councilwoman Mary Nichols-Rhodes, who voted against the proposal, said Giant Eagle will build a GetGo either way, so why offer the tax break.
“It’s a big advantage to GetGo to be on that corner,” she said. “The development of Portage Crossing is going to enhance the area. They’re going to build there anyway. If a tax abatement would cause someone to come there, that’s different.”
Mary Ellen Pyke, Ward 2, reminded council it voted to make the area that includes the proposed GetGo a community reinvestment area.
“We told businesses, ‘You come here and we’ll consider giving you a tax break,’ ” she said.
Nichols-Rhodes countered: “That doesn’t mean every business has to get one.”
She pointed out that the developer, Stark Enterprises, already will have free electric in the common areas and other perks.
“The people I talk to don’t want us to give away more of our tax money,” she said.
Ward 8 Councilman Terry Mader said tax abatements are a tool used to bring in the best possible businesses.
“I don’t understand when we have a tool we can use we would reject using it for a business,” Mader said.
Truby said she is disappointed by council’s vote.
“What kind of message is this council sending to our business community?” she asked.