Chesterton Tribune



Burns Harbor TIF advances; Town Council splits over road project engineer

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Burns Harborís 83-acre expansion of its TIF district secured two needed approvals Monday with a public hearing and final vote slated for a special June 30 meeting of the townís Redevelopment Commission.

The process must be completed by July 1.

The Advisory Plan Commission and the Town Council voted unanimously at separate meetings last night to advance bringing into the TIF boundaries both the Traditions apartment complex and the land zoned for a future downtown district southeast of the apartments.

The RDCís proposed budget includes $135,000 a year for 10 years going to the Duneland School Corp. to replace the estimated property taxes it wonít receive in its capital projects fund. Thatís because property taxes generated from new development in the TIF district would go exclusively to the RDC for its use rather than being shared with other taxing units.

During the Plan Commission meeting some members questioned specifics of the TIF expansion resolution and a companion amendment to the TIF district development plan.

Associate town attorney Charles Parkinson said the commissionís role in the process is to determine if the development proposed is consistent with the townís comprehensive plan. He noted the specifics at this point are intentionally broad and donít commit the RDC to any project at this time.

The $10 million draft budget, which can be changed, includes $5 million to implement the downtown comprehensive plan through public improvements; $2.75 million for roads, sidewalks and pedestrian linkages in the TIF district; $150,000 for a monument sign along Interstate 94; and $500,000 for consultant fees.

Parkinson clarified that TIF money also can be spent for projects adjacent to the district itself if that spending benefits the district; capital purchases like police and fire vehicles also are allowed in certain circumstances.

Responding to a commission question, town financial consultant Dan Botich of Cender & Company said 27 percent of the townís 4,400 acres would be under TIF restrictions if the new expansion is approved. TIF money goes to the RDC fund and not the townís general fund.

The Town Council, three of whose members also sit on the RDC, discussed their required TIF resolution briefly before a 5-0 vote to allow it. Botich said the budget as proposed is inclusive and broad but not binding.

Paving prompts rift

On a separate matter the Town Council split 3-2 to hire consultant SEH over town engineer Global Engineering and Surveying to prepare specifications for upcoming paving projects.

Members Greg Miller and Jim McGee said they were relying on the opinion of Gene Weibl, who had solicited and reviewed the requests for proposals. Yesterday, Adam Higgins of SEH and Shem Khalil of Global both explained their methodology for preparing a paving plan.

Weibl said he believed SEHís proposal was more comprehensive and could enable the town to pave more roads this year for its estimated $500,000 budget. SEHís quote was $37,100 including $14,850 for soil borings. Global quoted $29,000.

Miller said the two approaches each company proposes could be equally valid; he noted it highlights the need for the town to develop a streamlined way to receive apples-to-apples proposals so bids can be more easily compared for the best use of taxpayer money.

McGee said it could benefit the town to see if SEHís approach is the right direction.

Councilmen Jeff Freeze and Mike Perrine were in the minority. Freeze said there are coordination benefits using the town engineer, and thereís no need to overlook an existing good relationship. Perrine said he, too, didnít see sufficient reason not to go with the town engineer.

After the meeting Weibl said portions of the roads eyed for reconstruction, paving or other improvements are the east and west sides of Old Porter Road, South Babcock Road, Verplank Drive, Haglund Road, and some roads in the Harbor Trails and Village subdivisions.



Posted 6/17/2014