You Paid For It: Powell taxpayers out nearly $1 million in development settlement

POWELL, OH (WCMH) — Powell taxpayers must pay nearly a million dollars to a developer after three year ordeal between the developer and the city.

The city of Powell agreed to settle for $1.8 million dollars with a developer who was denied permission to build stores and homes near downtown Powell. The city’s insurance carrier, Great American Insurance Group, will cover $850,000. The city will cover the remaining $950,000.

It all started in June of 2014 when the 7 members of Powell’s city council approved a development called Powell Crossing LLC. It includes 64 apartments and 14,000 square feet of mixed use space next to city hall.

“A lot of feedback was received from the public on the development,” said Megan Canavan, a spokesperson for the city of Powell.

But a group of residents were against the new build, citing concerns about high density housing and traffic problems in Powell. In just a few months, their opposition grew into an attempt to change the city charter, which would prevent the build in that area. That amendment was put on the ballot five months later in November, 2014, and approved by 56 percent of voters.

The city then pulled the developer’s approval, igniting the lawsuit.

“A lot of this is complicated, it’s (been) a long few years of back and forth,” said Canavan.

Supporters of the amendment have criticized city council for not siding with the 56 percent of voters who did not want the development.

After several years in court, a U.S. District judge said the amendment was unconstitutional and violated the developer rights, calling it an unlawful delegation of legislative power.

Powell City council settled with the developer for $1.8 million for damages and attorney fees. Of this, $950,000 will come from the city’s general fund.

“We acknowledge that our residents are very emotional about this,” Canavan said.

The bill for taxpayers accounts for about 17 percent of the entire general fund, a big check for the city of 13,000 people.

“We do know that it’s going to impact our future capital improvements,” Canavan added.

Moving forward, the city is nearing the end of a 2012 bond levy and recouping lost funds will be up to city leaders.

“We are really looking forward to just bringing our community closure on this issue,” Canavan said.

In addition to the settlement, liability insurance premiums for the city of Powell are also increasing by $35,000 annually due to rising costs for litigation.

The Powell Crossing development plan is back on schedule to be built as planned.

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