Tax reprieve in Columbiana fuels housing boom, leaves school official baffled

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The sounds of construction are common around Firestone Farms

COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WKBN) – Lots of houses are going up in Columbiana’s Firestone Farms neighborhood.

The construction boom is being driven by Columbiana being labeled “The Nicest Place in America,” with low-interest rates and the city’s creation in 2018 of a Community Reinvestment (CRA), which allows homeowners building new houses to not pay property tax for 15 years.

Patrick and Meredith Gorman are building in the Firestone Farms neighborhood. They used to live across the street.

“We wanted to downsize, and the tax abatement came along. It just seemed like the right time to do everything,” Patrick Gorman said.

The sounds of construction are common around Firestone Farms, where currently around 20 homes are being built and another 20 are ready to be built. Because of the CRA, all the owners of the new homes will pay no property tax for 15 years.

“We think do you want 100% of something large later or a small percentage of something right now,” said Columbiana City Manager Lance Willard.

Willard said that between 2007 and 2018, Columbiana averaged 14 new houses a year. In 2019 there were 65 and last year 76.

Tom Mackall owns the land on which the houses are being built.

“It is really expensive to build a house, and isn’t Columbiana going to be a lot better place because we built all these hew houses here,” Mackall said.

Mackall says he only has eight lots left on which to build in Firestone Farms. He owns additional land in the development that needs roads and utilities, and there’s a plan to get that done.

“With low-interest rates and without the real estate taxes, it’s just like a wonderful opportunity to really make the town a better place,” Mackall said.

“It’s amazing. I never thought that it would skyrocket like this, again. It kind of petered out for a while, and now it’s just amazing how many houses are going up,” Meredith Gorman said.

Not everyone is pleased with the no property tax deal. Columbiana Superintendent of Schools Don Mook says the schools will get some extra money from a 1% income tax but said the property tax loss is a big one.

It’s killing us. We get the majority of the money, and we have no say in the matter. I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t,” Mook said. “They keep telling me it’s only 15 years. I might be dead in 15 years.”

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