Chesterton Tribune



New Burns Harbor RDC members retain master development firm

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Paying an outside consultant a hefty sum to come up with a revitalization plan for Burns Harbor proved to be a contentious topic in last year’s town elections, contributing to the defeat of four Town Council incumbents.

The rift between the new and the former Council has subsided, it appears, as the Burns Harbor Redevelopment Commission, made up of the recently elected Council members, voted unanimously Wednesday to continue the agreement with LiveWorkLearnPlay at the rate $35,000 per month.

Those voting were RDC members Ray Poparad, Andy Bozak, Eric Hull, Toni Biancardi and President Marcus Rogala.

Knowing he would probably take heat from some residents, Rogala read a prepared statement to shed light on what went into his decision.

“Throughout these eight years (as a resident, volunteer, elected official), I have observed a town at a standstill, remaining dormant and with little to no observable progress at all,” Rogala said.

“Fortunately, I very much believe a reasonable plan was created prior to this council and commission’s involvement and after very careful consideration, I believe this plan will not only work towards the goal of continuously enhancing the quality of life for existing and future residents, employers, and employees of Burns Harbor, but it will also help us attract visitors, new business and investment,” he said.

Each of his colleagues have expressed concerns with LWLP and the question has always been when and how growth will be coming, Rogala said. After asking these questions, Rogala said he is confident in the plan’s ideas for “sustainability” or to make sure future development is continued.

Rogala said that he is keen on making Burns Harbor more “walkable” by creating walking and bike paths to encourage those types of travel and reduce vehicle congestion. He said he wants to get help from the Department of Transportation on a road diet, where a lane on a multi-lane road is converted to bike lanes or sidewalks, for the town’s major roadways.

The RDC receives its funds from the Town’s tax incremental finance district which “is not truly the Town’s money” as it also belongs to schools, libraries, etc., Rogala said. “In support of the county and region, we believe it’s our obligation to create a sense of place for the region to also visit and support.”

The Master Development and Revitalization Plan and Roadmap Implementation by LWLP is “the best resource to be able to move the town forward responsibly in opportune fashion,” Rogala concluded.

None of the other members added any comments, but former Council member Gene Weibl expressed his gratitude for the decision.

“You guys took a very brave step tonight,” he said. “I thank you for it. I pledge my support to you, so you have that. Many of you realize the pressure you are under with this decision.”

Former RDC member Brad Enslen said he appreciates letting the work continue and agreed with Rogala’s ideas for enhancing non-motorized travel that can connect parts of town. “It’s a need that’s been there for a long time,” he said.

LWLP will continue with the implementation phase of its plan. The first thing that will be moved on is the “pop-up container village” which will have small units for new businesses, potentially retail outfits and food vendors.

Communications manager

Also Wednesday, the RDC voted 5-0 to hire Danielle Ziulkowski as its communication manager for another year. Instead of $65 per hour, Ziulkowski’s agreement was amended to where she would be paid $50 hourly with a limited number of hours.

Rogala said that “not many people were happy with the past contract” but his research found that the average pay for communication managers in the state is between $46 to $52 per hour.

Addressing a question posed at last month’s RDC meeting, grants developer Tina Rongers said her and Ziulkowski will work not only with the RDC but with all the different Town departments to hear their needs and wants.

“We want to bring to you a targeted mix of projects,” Rongers said.

The scope for funding opportunities to be sought include those at the regional, state and federal level, she added.

School money

In other actions, the RDC unanimously agreed to flow the next installment of TIF money to the Duneland Schools as part of its ten-year agreement.

The amount stemming from the December 2015 tax installment is $38,135. The state statute regulating TIF allocations now permits redevelopment commissions to pass 15 percent of tax revenues on to schools or any educational facility that offers programs that benefit economic development.

Fiber optics

Economic Development Director Joe Rurode said he is pursuing talks with the Chesterton RDC about being able to piggyback on its plan for a state-of-the-art fiber optic network. He hopes to have a meeting in the next month and have more to tell at the March meeting.

Rogala said he’s had internet connection issues and businesses wanting to move here will be looking to have reliable, high-speed internet.

Meet and greet

Meanwhile, RDC Toni Biancardi said the business meet and greet hosted by the RDC will be Thursday, Feb. 25, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Duneland Falls Banquet Hall. Invites went out the first of this month, she said.


Posted 2/12/2016






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