Governments and private developers are increasingly working together through a public/private partnership called a New Community Authority (NCA, also referred to by some as a Community Development Authority or CDA) to accomplish their development or redevelopment projects. NCAs have recently been used to transform the formerly vacant Lazarus Department Store building in downtown Columbus into one of the largest LEED certified office buildings in the country and construct a sewage treatment facility to support a 3,300 acre, 2500+ home development northeast of Cincinnati. More than a dozen other NCAs across the state now help finance roadway improvements or contribute to local public schools. An NCA has provided needed infrastructure, including a new public high school, to residents of the Village of New Albany for more than 15 years.
An NCA is a well-planned, diversified and economically sound community, or an addition to an existing community, that includes facilities for the conduct of industrial, commercial, residential, cultural, educational and/or recreational activities. It is designed in accordance with planning concepts for the placement of utility, open space and other supportive facilities. An NCA is a separate public body governed by a board of trustees that may oversee, coordinate, construct and finance public infrastructure improvements and community facilities. Ohio Revised Code Chapter 349 provides the authority and procedures for forming and governing an NCA.
Formation by Petition
Formation of an NCA is initiated by a petition signed by all of the owners of the real property to be included within the boundaries of the NCA. The boundaries of an NCA not wholly within a municipality must include at least 1000 acres while an NCA wholly within a municipality has no minimum acreage requirement. The petition must be approved by the NCA’s “organizational board of commissioners,” which generally consists of the board of county commissioners for each county in which the NCA is located. The petition must also be approved by the most populous city of the county in which the NCA is located (and in some cases the most populous city of a neighboring county) even if no part of the proposed NCA is within that city. If more than half of the proposed NCA is located within the most populous city of a county, the city council, and not the board of county commissioners, serves as the “organizational board of commissioners” and must approve the petition.
Board of Trustees
NCAs are governed by a board of trustees with seven to 13 members as established in the petition. Initially, trustees are appointed by the organizational board of commissioners and the developer, with the organizational board of commissioners appointing the majority of trustees. Appointed trustees are eventually replaced by elected trustees as the NCA area is developed. Developer appointed trustees must constitute the minority of any quorum for board of trustee actions.
Community Development Program
The petition for an NCA establishes its community development program. Community development programs set forth the land development activities (e.g., constructing roads, sanitary and storm sewers, water distribution systems, sidewalks and other public improvements) and community facilities (e.g., public buildings, parks, and educational, cultural and recreational facilities) the NCA will construct, operate or maintain. Community development programs may be adjusted by amending the petition or, if permitted by the petition, by resolution of the NCA board of directors.
NCAs have broad statutory powers to implement their community development program. These powers include the ability to acquire and dispose of property, enter into agreements with governments, developers or other parties (without competitive bidding, but subject to prevailing wage) for land development activities, and to construct community facilities (such as community and recreation centers, auditoriums, parks, day care centers, schools, hospitals and utilities), levy and enforce community development charges, hire employees and issue bonds. Chapter 349 also provides NCAs and governmental entities or agencies the power to cooperate with each other to carry out the community development program. NCAs do not have zoning or subdivision regulation powers or the power to provide fire or police protection. NCAs may only supply water or sewage treatment and disposal services if they cannot be obtained from existing political subdivisions.
Community Development Charges
An NCA can levy a “community development charge” within its boundaries to pay for its community development program if permitted by its petition and real property instruments encumbering land within its boundaries. Community development charges can be determined on the basis of real property assessed valuation, the income of residents of the NCA, the profits of businesses within the NCA, a uniform fee per parcel or any combination of the foregoing. Community development charges can be collected by the NCA or certified to the county auditor for collection with real property taxes.
Community Development Bonds
An NCA can issue bonds to fund its community development program. These bonds can be paid for and secured by community development charges or other income sources (e.g., rentals, user fees, sale proceeds, grants, gifts, etc.). The bonds are a debt of the NCA and not a debt of any county, township, municipality or other subdivision.