In what has been a laborious process by the Summit County Council, the 23,500 square foot expansion to the Tanger Outlets was finally approved on Wednesday. The Council previously had issues with the manner in which the developers allocated community incentive funds to the Peace House.
The expansion, as part of a new Specially Planned Area (SPA), was never opposed by the Council; rather, it was Tanger's plan to give $50,000 in gift cards to the Peace House as part of its mandatory 'community incentives' funding that caused the delay.
Tanger was required to pay $587,215 for affordable housing as a fee-in-lieu and had previously had the following list of community incentives:
Because the Council was not pleased with the precedent that the granting of gift cards to a non-profit might set, Tanger agreed to add that $50,000 to workforce housing.
Due to a discrepancy between an affordable housing calculation from the 2009 code and the 2012 code, Tanger agreed to split the difference, adding $54,551 more to workforce housing. The grand total of funds dedicated to affordable housing for Peace House as a result totaled $960,490.
Council member Dave Ure suggested the county write a proposal for affordable housing that the Peace House would then have to meet. Chair Chris Robinson said the Peace House, in conjunction with the County Manager, will come up with a housing proposal over the next few weeks before the funds are allocated.
"I've felt like this has been a political hot potato and there's been political pressure on us to direct the funds to Peace House from the beginning," Ure said.
The original intent was for the affordable housing monies to be granted directly to Peace House, and the county would put faith in their ability to efficiently construct transitional housing. County Manager Bob Jasper suggested keeping the money in a trust and waiting to see other housing proposals.
"I'd like a process where I can see some competing models," Jasper said. " directing [the funds] to one group in one form, you're not giving [the county] a lot of opportunities to create good affordable housing. If you let people put in proposals and form partnerships, you get a better product."
The Peace House, which said it did not yet have a plan of how to use the monies, will be tasked with coming up with a transitional housing proposal to be presented to the Council at the Feb. 26 meeting.
"If, after [February] 26th, we don't like the Peace House's proposal, the county will use the money as they see fit for affordable housing," Robinson said.
Jeff Smith, who serves on Peace House's Board of Advisors, said the non-profit had always envisioned the affordable housing monies being held in an escrow account by the county until the Peace House could "jump through certain hurdles" to receive the funds.
Council member Roger Armstrong said he wants to make sure the affordable housing monies are used responsibly and in an expeditious fashion.
"If the Peace House is unable to use that money on a timely basis, I'm concerned about it being tied up for a considerable period where another entity might be able to create affordable housing [more quickly]," Armstrong said.