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Board closer to Cole answer

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The Columbus Redevelopment Commission is considering paying $300,000 over five years to the developer of the downtown Cole apartments to end an ongoing dispute.

The $300,000 owed to Buckingham Cos. stems from an oral agreement by some members of the previous Redevelopment Commission and documents signed in 2009 and 2011 by members of Columbus Downtown Inc., the private company that negotiated agreements, signed leases and acquired properties on behalf of the commission. The money was to pay for architectural fees and was one of several incentives to seal the deal to build the Cole complex. The money was to have been paid by March 2011.

Indianapolis-based Buckingham is working to finish the $18 million apartment development at 200 Jackson St., set to open early next year. The apartments wrap around the city’s Second Street garage.

Mayor Kristen Brown and some city officials have questioned the legitimacy of the $300,000 agreement and whether the current commission had an obligation to pay.

One possible resolution, the mayor said in October, would be for Buckingham to pay a reduced rate for the 200 parking spaces it leases in the Second Street garage so it could recoup its money over time.

Brown told commission members that the State Board of Accounts has an issue with such a payment, and recommends that Buckingham make lease payments and the commission pay back money each year.

The idea was to have Buckingham pay $25 per parking space per month. However, language in the 2011 document says the amount can’t exceed the operating cost, which has been projected at $19.

What Brown proposed doing is use revenue from the Jackson Street garage to supplement the end-of-year payments to Buckingham, because the Second Street garage is projected to lose revenue the first year.

Commission member Frank Jerome said he wouldn’t pay a penny to Buckingham because of all the incentives they received, and because he believes the payment wasn’t legally approved.

Other commission members said it was a bad deal, but it is now time to avoid litigation and to move forward

“I’m ready to move on. I think (Buckingham) has made concessions,” Brown said.

The Redevelopment Commission made no motion to make the payment at Monday’s meeting of the commission, because time is needed to draft amendment language to the resolution that was already on the agenda. The commission members will vote on the payment at the commission’s Dec. 17 meeting.

The commission also agreed to pay $21,021 to the owner of Scotty’s Burger Joint for unpaid construction costs of the restaurant space in The Commons near Fourth and Washington Streets.

Dunlap & Co. also would be paid $6,556 for work related to the construction. However, both payments were contingent upon Scotty’s paying $28,762.44 in unpaid utility bills, reassigning its lease to the redevelopment commission and paying the amount within 15 days or else be found in default of its lease.

Mert Shipman, Scotty’s owner, has withheld utility payments and reassignment of the lease until he is paid for the construction. He has been seeking $25,521. However, the commission did not include $4,500 in payments they considered incurred by his choices.

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