Traffic, loss of park land and the speed of the approval process for a new ice rink facility in Greenwood were some of the key concerns residents raised before a city board gave a tax break for the project its first OK.
City officials responded to residents’ concerns, citing the tax dollars the $20 million, 115,000-square-foot complex would bring in, calling it an amenity for the city and noting the number of meetings and approvals the project will need where residents can speak.
Minor-league hockey team Indy Fuel owners Jim and Sean Hallett have proposed the Greenwood Iceplex with up to four ice rinks to be built on 6 acres at Freedom Park. They have requested a five-year, $450,000 tax break, and the city has also offered to lease the land for $1 a month for 60 years. This week, the Greenwood Economic Development Commission sent the tax break request to the city council with a unanimous favorable recommendation.
Residents also used the meeting as their first chance to directly address city officials with their concerns about project, including fears about extra traffic, a proposed expansion of Stop 18 Road and questions about whether Freedom Park is an appropriate location for this development.
City officials touted the amount of taxes the new facility would bring in. Property taxes are expected to be about $150,000 to $170,000 a year, Greenwood city attorney Krista Taggart said. Because the development is not located in a tax increment financing, or TIF, district, school and library districts will also receive a share of the property taxes.
The tax breaks only cover the building, which is expected to cost about $8 million. Taxes on personal property, such as the equipment necessary to cool the rinks, is not part of the tax break, and will bring in about $20,000 a year, she said. Property taxes will increase by 20 percent each year until the development is charged the full tax bill in the sixth year, Taggart said.
During the first 10 years after the Iceplex is built, the property will generate more than $1 million in property taxes. As park land, it is not currently taxed, she said.
Nearby residents said making money off of park land shouldn’t be a city priority.
“Don’t look at grass and say, ‘we need to turn a profit on it’,” said Seth Garrett, a resident of Brighton Estates, a neighborhood west of Freedom Park.
Green space is a valuable commodity for the community, and the city shouldn’t be giving it away, he said.
A park is an appropriate location for an athletic facility, economic development commission member Don Cummings said. If Greenwood were to build a city-owned and city-run ice rink complex, putting it in Freedom Park next to the aquatic center would make perfect sense, he said.
Having as many as four indoor ice rinks will be a major amenity for the community, and having a private developer build it is better than if property tax dollars were used to fund it, economic development commission member Steve Spencer said.
Other residents objected to the proposed expansion of Stop 18 Road, which is an entrance into Freedom Park, into the Brighton Estates neighborhood. Extending the road would provide an east to west route connecting Averitt and Honey Creek roads.
Their concern: the new developments will bring too much extra traffic for a road that will cut through a residential neighborhood.
However, the expansion of Stop 18 Road has long been part of the city’s plans, and the city has always considered bringing in another athletic building south of Freedom Springs. Previous plans for a YMCA at that location fell through, Greenwood Deputy Mayor Terry McLaughlin said.
Council members Chuck Landon and David Lekse said the proposed expansion of Stop 18 Road should be reconsidered. Landon again affirmed his support for the Iceplex project, while Lekse said that he wanted to get more details about how the city will handle traffic concerns on Averitt and Smith Valley roads before he makes a decision on whether he will support the tax break.
Some residents also said the city was rushing the tax break process and not giving sufficient time for them to voice their concerns.
City officials said residents will have plenty of opportunities for public input. The tax break for the Greenwood Iceplex will be on the agenda for four city council meetings and the parks board will need to approve the $1-a-month lease. The next city council meeting, where the tax abatement will be introduced, is set for 7 p.m. Monday.