Chesterton Tribune

 

 

County RDC shifts TIF focus from hospital to airport

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Redevelopment Commission on Thursday put the brakes on the current proposal to create a tax increment finance area in Liberty Twp., surrounding Porter Regional Hospital on U.S. 6, while moving ahead on an alternative economic development plan at Porter County Regional Airport.

Commission president Ric Frataccia said that he had a meeting with County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, who suggested that perhaps the better place for the County to launch a redevelopment area would be at the airport north of U.S. 30, near Ind. 49 in Washington Twp., near the Valparaiso city limits.

But first, the RDC would like to meet with the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission, as it has been suggested the VRC would like to annex property south of U.S. 30 across from the airport to expand the city’s current TIF area.

RDC member and County Councilwoman Sylvia Graham, D-At Large, said she has been concerned about the rumors and how it may “usurp” the County RDC. She and fellow RDC member and County Councilman Jim Polarek, R-4th, have been opponents of TIF areas, because they can divert tax revenues away from local units of government.

The proposed TIF area at the hospital has created a stir at recent County Council meetings as member Dan Whitten, D-At Large, has expressed concern that its implementation would take away the promised tax benefits of hospital as its 10-year tax abatement winds down.

Polarek said before the County takes its next step with the airport, it would need to hear Valparaiso’s annexation plan as TIF areas can last for 10 years or longer.

“We need to get an answer as to what their plans are,” Polarek said.

Financial advisor Dan Botich of Cender and Company said that the county would still be allowed to operate a TIF area in a subsequently annexed property as long as there are issued bonds still outstanding.

Botich is also an advisor for the Valparaiso RDC and said he could provide the commission with maps of the city’s redevelopment areas.

The RDC’s non-voting advisor and Duneland school board member Ralph Ayres said that it would be valuable to know where the city’s sewer and water lines are located as prospective businesses will often seek out those utilities.

RDC member Dave Burrus said that he would advise that the commission not be too eager to decide on a TIF area, as there may be better options available to them to develop the airport area.

“(TIFs) are not the only tool for a redevelopment plan,” he said.

As for the Liberty Township Economic Development Area at the hospital, Botich had prepared a 63-page economic development plan which is required if the commission wishes to make a declaratory resolution to establish a redevelopment area. Botich said the Commission can initiate other redevelopment methods besides a TIF area to fund capital improvement projects.

The commission, Botich said, can sell general obligation bonds or set up a special improvement district in which businesses in an area pay a fee to have the county provide services such as repairing the streets and marketing the area. The commission would also have the power to grant businesses tax abatements in located in an economic revitalization area, he added.

One of the uses for a Liberty Economic Development zone would possibly be to create funding for a long awaited four-lane expansion project on U.S. 6.

“There is a whole array of funding mechanisms that could be looked at,” Botich said.

The County Commissioners earlier this year asked the Indiana Department of Transportation to do a traffic study with the hopes that one day the road could be widened from South Haven to Ind. 49.

Botich said the project could be done sooner if funds from the County or the RDC were available to provide a match to the state. Having an economic development plan could help that effort, he said.

The four commission members present all voted to table the Liberty Township TIF issue until officials can agree upon economic redevelopment strategies appropriate for that area. A second vote was for the board to move forward with the redevelopment area for the airport.

Absent from the meeting was RDC member John Shepherd.

Just as he did for the Liberty Township redevelopment area, Botich said he would create an economic development plan for the airport which he said could be completed in 60 days.

The commission said they would pass along the Liberty Twp. economic development plan to the county commissioners and county council as a reference tool. The document will also be available online.

The plan includes goals and outlines for development, budget estimates for public investment, roadway projects, blueway corridors, and possible utility developments.

 

Posted 7/22/2013