The Burns Harbor
Redevelopment Commission agreed Thursday to find a consultant to write a
request for proposals to hire a second consultant to help implement the
town’s comprehensive plan.
After the meeting
RDC member Gene Weibl said a $10,000 study completed earlier this year by
consultant Weaver Boos that proposed green-development options like a bike
trail will serve as a tool to secure grants and won’t duplicate the new
New citizen RDC
member Cliff Fleming, a former Burns Harbor councilman, said reaching out to
the private sector will lead the town to discover how it can be better for
both the people who live there and those who want to.
As a developer
himself, Fleming made a lengthy case from personal experience that
professional consultants know the proper buzzwords, nomenclature and
sequencing to get results.
RDC member Greg
Miller said the commission can’t analyze the town’s assets and how to
overcome its liabilities like a consultant can, but it can set a vision and
goals where Burns Harbor wants to go and let professionals help the town get
The RDC’s concern
can be economic development, redevelopment and quality of life that includes
employment and amenities, he added.
Weibl said he sees
consulting groups as “matchmakers” who put together the right properties
with the right companies.
saying, “I’d hate to work on one thing specific and one year later go
‘oops’.” He noted companies often bypass local government and work initially
through the State of Indiana seeking certified shovel-ready sites.
Several times RDC
members mentioned bringing a grocery store to Burns Harbor, but Miller said
if a Walgreens is willing to come it could be a seed that facilitates
development around it. Weibl said Burns Harbor long has had a desire for a
RDC member Jeff
Freeze said the town can’t lose sight of individual needs like a sidewalk
along Haglund Road and the need to upgrade the town’s website, described as
the face of the town that could be more functional for residents and
It was noted that
at some point the town may need to hire a grant consultant. Weibl said his
current efforts are very time consuming, and he reminded that grants often
have a local dollar match.
Where will growth
Miller said three
corners at the Indiana 149/U.S. 20 intersection are ripe for redevelopment
as well as the former Standard Plaza property east of there if its legal
ownership can be sorted out.
Weibl said he’s met
with a representative of the Indiana Department of Transportation who
pledged cooperation on several town projects including hike/bike lanes along
Indiana 149, crosswalks at the multi-lane intersection of U.S. 20 and
Indiana 149, and regrading a ditch near Westport Road. According to Weibl,
“I think we’ll get more cooperation (from INDOT) than we’ve ever had in the
Weibl said the RDC
can decide whether to involve the town’s Advisory Plan Commission in a U.S.
20 corridor plan that would require significant input from the City of
Portage and the Town of Porter.
plans have unified requirements such as facade standards and signage.
Freeze said with
the city’s U.S. 6 corridor development well on its way, Portage is turning
its attention to redeveloping the U.S. 20 area and has been buying
properties along it. He noted Porter also hopes to jump-start interest along
U.S. 20 there.
Burns Harbor RDC
member Brad Enslen said U.S. 20 is both an asset and a liability for his
town. He suggested getting a complete inventory of the town’s development
potential, which led to the lengthy discussion regarding consultants.
New money, new
Freeze said the RDC
can move in a different direction now that Burns Harbor’s sanitary sewers
have been installed and its financing bonds paid off. Non-voting RDC member
Ralph Ayres of the Duneland School Board asked what the RDC’s annual
estimated distribution will be to spend.
Miller said the RDC
has about $140,000 on hand and anticipates probably $300,000 to $400,000 in
the spring tax draw and a second payout this winter. 2014 income has been
appropriated if the decision comes to spend it.
suggestion RDC attorney Chuck Parkinson will confirm what percentage of
annual RDC income derived from TIF districts can be reserved for educational
purposes or projects like Duneland Schools. Ayres said it will be a huge
challenge for the Burns Harbor RDC to have spendable money again and to
decide how to use it.
RDC members Miller,
Weibl and Freeze also sit on the Town Council. Fleming and Enslen are new
citizen RDC members. Miller was elected its president, Enslen vice-president
and Freeze secretary.
It was agreed the
next meeting will be May 12 at 7 p.m. at the town hall; at that meeting
designating a regular meeting date will be discussed.