Chesterton Tribune



Residential property in Porter Beach TIF district, property owner protests

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The Porter Redevelopment Commission last night approved a resolution approving the creation of a TIF--or tax increment financing district--in Porter Beach that includes residential property.

MCR Partners Consultant to the Commission Matt Reardon stated at a June 12 Town Council meeting, and it was subsequently reported in the Chesterton Tribune, that the TIF district would capture TIF revenue from commercial property in the area and would not contain any residential property. A zoning map of the area shows that the only commercial property in the proposed district is the parcel containing the Johnson Inn.

Last night, Commission President Elka Nelson read a letter from Paul Von Tobel asking that his residential properties at 2649 Wabash Avenue and 3027 State Street be removed from the proposed plan. The letter was received by Nelson and Building Commissioner Michael Barry on June 19, and Paul Von Tobel, along with his son Peter Von Tobel, appeared at the meeting to voice their concerns again.

It turns out five lots that are zoned for residential use are contained in the proposed TIF Wabash Avenue Redevelopment Area. According to Barry, two of them are vacant lots, one of them contains an unoccupied house, but the two parcels that Paul Von Tobel listed in his letter are occupied residences.

Barry says the district contained the residential properties from the start, but they went unnoticed by Reardon when he described the plan to the Town Council earlier this month. “We drew the boundaries and mistakenly said there were no residential properties included when there are five.”

2649 Wabash is owned by Wabash Dunes LLC, whose registered business agent with the Indiana Secretary of State is Peter Von Tobel. 3027 State Street is owned by the Von Tobel Trust. The brief letter submitted to Nelson and Barry asked that the two properties be removed from the district.

The eastern boundary of the TIF area is Waverly Road. From the corner of Duneland Drive and Wabash Avenue, there is a southern boundary extending east to Waverly. Beginning at the corner of Wabash and Duneland Drive is a western boundary for the district. After half a block, the district’s boundaries turn to extend farther west, encompassing the arm of State Street connected to Johnson Beach Road, which is where the property owned by Von Tobel Trust lies. The area is a total of 19.89 acres and includes National Lakeshore property.

Barry said the district includes National Lakeshore property in case a developer was interested in partnering with the National Lakeshore or DNR to extend development onto that land. He also noted that the property at 2649 Wabash was not occupied at the time the boundaries were formed, but it is now a rental property. 3027 State Street is next to the rental property. “Rather than zigzagging along the property line, we included the other residence,” he said.

Peter Von Tobel said during the public comment portion of last night’s meeting that his two properties are different from the other three because the other three parcels are not occupied. Nelson reminded him that all five parcels are zoned for the same use. The other three properties are: 3029 State Street, owned by Carl Dahlin Jr., a vacant lot on State Street owned by Carl Dahlin Jr., and a vacant lot on State Street owned by Jeff Schneider.

Nelson said “We were taking the property that served the lakefront” when the area was mapped out. She also said the plan has “gone before two boards already with the properties that were included in it” and been approved by those boards, which are the Plan Commission and the Town Council, in what has been nearly a two-month process.

Barry confirmed that the Town Council was aware that residential property was included in the plan at the time that it made its decision to approve the formation of the district. He said, “The boundary we have is the same boundary we started with,” and added that he has worked for the past several months with members of the Town Council and Plan Commission to explain the plan. “It’s been clarified with everybody.”

The Von Tobels said their main concern came from the possibility that a developer seeking to build within the TIF district could approach them about acquiring their land or that the Town might have increased power to seize their land. Commission Member Greg Stinson said a developer could make offers to landowners in the district, but the existence of the TIF district does not give the Town any leverage or legal right to influence a landowner’s decision. It also does not change the legal hoops the Town would face in order to seize property from a resident. “Having residential within the TIF does not in any way create any burden on the property owners,” Stinson said. “The answer is a flat no.”

The Commission approved the resolution designating the proposed district as it was designed, including the residential properties, as a TIF district with member Jeannine Virtue abstaining.

Tax increment financing, or TIF, is a levy on real property in an established district that yields an annual flow of cash the Town can use for public works in that district at its discretion. Revenue from TIF is the difference between property taxes collected based on the assessed value of property in the district from a given base year and the total amount of taxes collected from the district in the current year. TIF is sometimes met with criticism when it captures tax revenue from residential property because TIF money does not need to be shared with local schools, libraries, or the County.


Posted 6/27/2018




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