Chesterton Tribune

New county redevelopment commission could get authority to create tax funded TIF districts

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A revamp of the county’s Redevelopment Commission by the Porter County Commissioners could see Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts potentially around burgeoning areas of development such as the of the new Porter hospital located on the northwest corner of Ind. 49 and U.S. 6 in unincorporated Liberty Twp.

The county’s redevelopment commission currently acts solely in an advisory role and is the only one to do so in the state of Indiana, member Bob Thompson and executive director John Shepherd said at Tuesday’s board of commissioners meeting. It doesn’t even have a “mission statement.”

“It’s very unusual,” said Shepherd.

Indiana statutes give redevelopment commissions the ability to spend revenue generated in an industrial or commercially-zoned district on assets such as storm sewers and “things like that,” said Shepherd. He said the commission could be transformed formally in “a few simple steps.”

County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, asked “where should (the county) be?”, heeding his concern that collecting TIF revenues could divert money that would commonly be given to schools.

Shepherd said the state gives redevelopment commissions the ability to work with schools, even allowing school board members appointments on the commission as non-voting members, and the county in fact has school representatives from Porter Twp. Schools and Portage Twp. Schools serving. A portion of the TIF money generated could be earmarked for school districts.

Evan’s next concern was if the new body could impose taxes. Shepherd said that would be up to the county council, the fiscal body of the county. Thompson added it would also need approval from the plan commission.

Shepherd said creating a TIF district happens in areas of economic development and can spare areas set aside for farmland.

The district can create a timeline of taxes collected, either real property tax or personal property tax, he said.

“Once the development takes place, it never really stops,” said Shepherd.

County attorney Gwenn Rinkenberger said if a TIF district was created in the county, the county would need to pass an ordinance with a second or third reading. Evans also called for having a public hearing before doing so.

Shepherd indicated the obvious area for a TIF district would be the hospital and possibly around the county airport, any place with “imminent development.”

The commissioners voted 2-1 to favor the redevelopment commission having the power to create a TIF district with Evans and fellow commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, approving. The dissenting vote came from the board’s Democratic member South County Commissioner Carole Knoblock.

The county would also have internal controls on sunsetting districts, he said, whether it be five years or twenty-five years.

Richard Riley Reappointed to Tourism Board

A “hubbub” manifested when media reports came out questioning Evans’ tourism board appointment Richard Riley based on his residency. Riley owns the Railhouse Bed and Breakfast on 4th Street in Chesterton which opened last year. He had a residence in Illinois when he applied for the appointment, which was questioned since Indiana law requires board members to be permanent residents of the county.

Riley submitted his resignation and then reapplied after he changed his residency, voters registration and vehicle registration to his Porter County address.

Evans defended the reappointment, saying Riley is qualified for spending five years and putting in more than $1 million of his own money to create a “unique” tourist attraction for the county without any assistance.

“We look forward to having him on that board,” said Evans.

In another appointment, the commissioners selected Dave Collins to serve on the county plan commission. Collins is succeeding former planner Elizabeth Marshall who announced her resignation in January.

Evans also mentioned the county needs to appoint a representative for the Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority but so far has received zero applications. Anyone interested in serving on that board should contact the commissioners office.

Amendments Now Part of UDO

Also on Tuesday, the commissioners unanimously approved a second reading for three sets of amendments to the county’s Unified Development Ordinance which had been approved by the county plan commission.

While the current UDO sets a “one-size-fits-all” approach specifically related to large developments, the new amendments include guidelines for properties with five to 99 lots.

One of the amendments established a development review committee for developments with the 5-99 lot range. Thompson, who serves as the executive director for the plan commission, asked the commissioners to develop a five member review committee.

Members will include Dave Burrus of the county drainage board, a representative of the county health department, a plan commission staff member, and a Board of Zoning Appeals member.



Posted 2/22/2012