Chesterton Tribune



County Redevelopment Commission preparing TIF resolution for airport

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The Porter County Redevelopment Commission is inching closer to creating its first tax increment finance district in areas surrounding the Porter Regional Airport, directing its attorney Greg Sobkowski to proceed with drafting a declaratory resolution.

Commission members remained adamant that schools be protected from any impact created by the TIF, as much as possible, and asked that be made part of the resolution. All the area under consideration is located within Washington Twp. and the East Porter County School Corporation.

The southern border of the proposed TIF area would include the Porter County Expo Center at Division and Ind. 49. It would then stretch east to CR 400 E. and follow the NS Railroad right-of-way, then northward on CR 450 E. and past Ind. 2. Then the boundary would swoop west around Washington Twp. High School and straddle the corporate boundaries of Valparaiso, encompassing the whole area of the airport.

Financial Advisor Dan Botich of Cender and Company said the mapped area will also include some additional property along U.S. 30 such as the site of the old Chester Inc. facility. It also is to include the former Orville Redenbacher Popcorn plant on U.S. 30 east of CR 450 E. Much of the area is zoned industrial, while the airport itself is aviation focused.

If a TIF allocation area is established, a base assessed value is set and any new values spurred by development other than residential can be taxed for the purpose of local improvements within the allocation area.

As in the now-shelved Liberty Twp. economic development plan for a TIF at Porter Regional Hospital, members asked Sobkowski to “carve out” schools completely. However, Sobkowski said redevelopment commissions are limited in how they can give back to schools or soften the impact.

Sobkowski described three methods allowable for the schools to receive TIF allocation area funds. First, taxing bodies could share a percentage of the captured revenue, similar to what the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission has done for East Porter Schools where they, with the rest of the taxing units, can collect 40 percent of the new assessed valuation from the TIF at the Porter-Vale Shopping Center.

Secondly, schools can gain an additional 15 percent of TIF generated revenue for educational programs that promote economic development.

Third, Sobkowski said the RDC can use revenue to pay for redevelopment projects benefiting the schools that they otherwise would have to pay for themselves, such as new infrastructure and utilities or purchase of a new school bus.

Commission member Jim Polarek inquired if the commission could use all three options in the declaratory resolution. Sobkowski said a hybrid of the three is permissible and he will honor the RDC’s request to include it in the resolution to be presented at the Dec. 19 meeting.

“It may not be 100 percent (for the schools), but we need to get it as far as we can get,” said RDC president Ric Frataccia.

The resolution is the legal action that sets TIF boundaries and the terms of the allocation area. Sobkowski said the RDC would pass the resolution on to the Plan Commission for review, which would then forward it to the County Commissioners if approved. If the Commissioners favor it, the next step would be for the RDC to hold a public hearing, make changes if it so desires, and then kick it back to the Commissioners for final approval.

Botich presented RDC members with an economic development plan for the airport TIF area which is a prerequisite for the declaratory resolution.

Many of the goals outlined in the plan are a combination of the Ind. 49 corridor plan adopted in 2009, the Porter County Land Use and Thoroughfare Plan from 2001 and the airport’s own economic development plan “In Plane View.”

The development plan also requires the RDC to submit a property acquisition list naming locations that could be acquired by eminent domain. The commission intends to leave the list blank.

“We’re not condemning anyone’s property” Polarek said.

In the planned budget, the document lists up to $69.35 million of potential improvements over the next ten years, including expansion of railway access to the airport and more access controls on the highways. The airport itself is slated for $30 million in improvements such as upgrades to the runways and hangars.

From the audience, EPC Schools Superintendent Rod Gardin and school board member Bob Martin praised the commission for including them fully in the discussions.

“You’ve included us from the beginning and we are very grateful for that,” Martin said.


Posted 11/25/2013





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