Chesterton Tribune



Burns Harbor TIF expansion gets OK; talks slated with schools

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The Burns Harbor Redevelopment Commission met the July 1 deadline to expand its existing TIF district.

Meeting Monday, the RDC voted 5-0 to add 83 acres in the Traditions apartment complex and in the designated future downtown district southeast of the apartments.

The RDC formally began the process at a special meeting June 11, followed by necessary approvals from the Advisory Plan Commission and Town Council at special June 16 meetings of their own.

Because the TIF expansion includes a commitment to give Duneland School Corp. approximately $135,000 a year for 10 years, RDC member Cliff Fleming was designated to continue negotiations with Dunelandís administration on a draft agreement outlining how, when and for what purposes the money would be released.

Non-voting RDC member Ralph Ayres, Duneland School Board president, hailed the proposal as a landmark decision to replace the $135,000 a year the school system would have received when new development occurs in Burns Harbor, but wonít because of the TIF expansion.

RDC president Greg Miller said the town and the school system need to think out of the box to improve amenities and services using groundbreaking partnerships for projects in the future.

Itís intended that the RDC money, possibly disbursed in the form of a grant, be used to benefit Burns Harbor students.

Later in the meeting, town clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan explained that Porter County last year failed to deduct from Burns Harborís TIF income money Duneland schools should have received due to a successful voter referendum enabling the school to collect more in property taxes.

To resolve the matter, $41,000 was deducted from Burns Harborís TIF distribution in June and another $25,000 will be deducted in December, said Jordan, and the correct formula should be in place for 2015.

A public hearing on TIF expansion was conducted during the meeting and no one commented other than the Chesterton Tribune reporter, who asked when did the RDC authorize financial consultant Cender & Company to prepare the actual TIF-expansion documents that were acted upon June 11.

The May 12 minutes confirm that the previous motion passed was to commission a Cender study to assess the value of adding Traditions to the TIF, short of agreement it should be expanded.

Last night, RDC member Gene Weibl said, ďIt was my impression it was something we intended to do if the numbers worked.Ē Miller said the difference sounds as if it were a semantics issue, but in the future the commissionís intent could be made clearer. Member Brad Enslen reminded a tight time frame was involved.

RDC attorney Chuck Parkinson told members, ďWhatever you intended to do in May, it was ratified by action in June.Ē

In other business, following its approval of a final draft, the RDC authorized consultant McGuireWoods to release a request for qualifications or RFQ seeking a second consultant to assess what the townís assets are to grow Burns Harbor through development/redevelopment.

The second consultantís final product would enable the town to reach out to developers through marketing efforts, explaining what benefits Burns Harbor has.

McGuireWoods is being paid not to exceed $15,000 to prepare an appealing RFQ so Burns Harborís solicitation gets noticed and attracts serious members of the development community.

Fleming said he hopes the second consultant can be hired in late fall.

He added that Burns Harbor wants to be a full-service community and itís silly for it to spend millions of dollars on the town, later to find out the market doesnít want to come there under those circumstances. ďIn the private sector itís not about do good or feel good; itís about the bottom line.Ē

Also Monday, the RDC adopted a resolution outlining how a member can request the services of a consultant, after consultation with the RDC president, if the associated fee doesnít exceed $5,000 and the expense is ratified by the full commission at the next meeting. It was noted the intent is not to circumvent public discussion, however, projects could arise that need immediate attention.

From the audience Town Council president Jim McGee thanked the commission and staff for its hard work, and he expressed hope that other taxing units whose TIF districts divert money from Duneland Schools would follow Burns Harborís lead to restore it.

The RDCís next meeting will be July 24 at 7 p.m.


Posted 7/1/2014