City approves Neighborhood Zones Program

By Ray Kisonas
Monroe News

Years of discussing the idea of dividing the City of Monroe into zones that could lead to tax relief and improvements in overall quality of life came to fruition, but barely.

The Monroe City Council Monday approved by a 4-3 vote to create what is known as the Neighborhood Enterprise Zone (NEZ) program. It divides the city into east and west zones where certain residential properties could apply for tax abatements. NEZs are intended to encourage investment in residential properties.

For new construction, the properties could request a 50- percent reduction in the millage rate, while for some rehabilitation projects the taxable value can be frozen so there is no tax increase as a result of the improvements.

The council appeared to support the NRZ concept but some were reluctant to pass the ordinance Monday due to the boundary lines of the zones.

“I do support the NEZ,” Mayor Robert E. Clark said. “I’m not comfortable with the property line change.”

The first zone extends from the eastern edge of the central business district to Eastchester St. in the southeast area of the city. It encompasses key redevelopment areas including the Old Village Plat, the former Lincoln School property and the Monroe Auto Equipment Co. ( MAECO) site.

The school property has been demolished and cleared while the MAECO site is undergoing demolition. That area is being targeted for new construction.

The second zone is the southwest area of the city near the Woodcraft Square condominium complex. That part of the city has experienced declining property values through the recent housing crisis, which encouraged investors to buy homes for rental properties. advertisement

According to the ordinance, while most landlords are good about maintaining their properties, owner-occupied homes receive a higher level of investment. Therefore, people are more likely to rehabilitate and upgrade a home they own.

Council members held a lengthy discussion about the boundaries that were established. Councilman John Iacoangeli said establishing the NEZ has been discussed for more than two years and he was ready to finalize it. He said the Citizens Planning Commission put much effort into the project and it should be trusted. But the boundaries of the zones seemed to bother others.

“I’m trying to figure out the rationale,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jeremy Molenda.

Dan Swallow, Monroe’s director of community and economic development, said the boundaries are not exact.

“There isn’t a specific science we used,” he told the council. “ We didn’t see real clear breaks. It’s a fuzzy boundary.”

Eventually the council voted and passed by a 4- 3 vote the NEZ proposal that first was discussed in 2013. Supporting the ordinance were Councilwomen Gloria Rafko and Kellie M. Vining along with councilmen William D. Sisk and Mr. Iacoangeli. Voting no were Councilman Jeffery A. Hensley, Mayor Clark and Mr. Molenda.

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