Wednesday, January 24, 2007

23 January 2007 Dearborn County Council Meeting Notes

23 January 2007 Dearborn County Council Meeting Notes

Country Council Waits Till End of Meeting to Fund Redevelopment Commission $300,000 for Acquisition of Land and Options for Economic Development

All members present: Fehrman, Chairman, Ullrich, Mitter, Morris, Kraus (now Vice chairman), Lansing, and Cheek.
Pickens, Auditor, and Messmore, Administrator, were also present.

There were nearly 200 people present in the audience, along the walls, behind the desk, and all over the hallways outside. The room couldn’t begin to hold them all. They also could not all hear. This meeting lasted until 12:50 AM Click on news and see download of the 1/24/07 Jim West interview with WSCH regarding the NW Quadrant development issues.

Register Publications also covered the ENTIRE meeting.

1. Ed Opp and the Life Squad Alliance presented their request to increase Ambulance funding to $20,ooo from $12,000 for 2008. They said they had 3937 calls in 2005 and 4374 in 2006. [NOTE: Law-bg records showed they had 1700 call in 2006] Needs are increasing and volunteers need training. Dialog is to continue with Council till August budget hearings.

2. Vieste report presentation was made - similar to the one given at the Commissioners 16 Jan meeting- see those notes previously on the blog for details. The Council presentation however tried to address eminent domain by saying they wouldn’t use it, and soft pedaled the TIF issues that indicated a push for the NW Quadrant and leaving the TIF on the back burner financially. [NOTE: Council doesn’t have eminent domain powers, although the executive and legislative branches of county gov’t do have the power to veto the Redevelopment Commission’s actions in some cases.]

Messmore and Comparato indicated they wanted to engage the stakeholders now. They think the existing TIFs REACT to specific requests as opposed to the NW Quadrant which would be proactive.
Comparato introduced Jim Higgins of London Witte to Council as “your INDEPENDENT financial advisor.” Higgins report was primarily on how to finance the projects with the prefinancing to interim financing to long term financing fitting together as each stage pays the previous one back. [NOTE: If any of this fails or doesn’t perform as expected, the county taxpayers are still responsible for the debt.]

Higgins stressed that he was very conservative in estimates so that the county would feel comfortable with the figures and know that they wouldn’t be back asking for more.
Final preliminary finance numbers to cover the projects till July 1 are $612,000 for the buildings and $780,000 for the NW Quadrant. This is just for marketing, studies, and getting the vendors qualified for bids etc. All projects come back to council and commissioners for approval, he said. Comparato said the plans were not firm and they will come back with specific dollars later.

Fehrman asked if the $1.4 million would carry the current mortgage on the jail. Higgins said yes. Fehrman said he understand the bricks and mortar part, but didn’t see how it would work in the NW Quadrant.
Mitter asked about program management fees of $340,000 of the $1.4 million on preliminary work. Answer- those fees go to Vieste and London Witte. Comparato said- we serve as an extension of the county staff and work for the administrator.

They want to begin to identify stakeholders. [NOTE: The definition of stakeholder is: 1. One who holds the bets in a game or contest. 2. One who has a share or an interest, as in an enterprise. Surely the landowners are stakeholders- why have they not been included in this process?]

Comparato said this plan fits the 5 guiding principles of the master plan, [NOTE: Guiding Principle #4 of the master plan states CONSERVE THE DISTINCT NATURAL AND MAN-MADE FEATURES AND RESOURCES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THE RURAL CHARACTER OF DEARBORN COUNTY.]

Comparato said they will try to feel through the NW Quadrant to see what is needed there and what the potential interest is. They saw Hamilton OH getting Honda spinoff and want to talk to Duke (Duke was mentioned several times as master developer tonight) for example to see if they would be interested and want to market it to others. [NOTE: It seems like we have Messmore and DCEDI getting Vieste to come in and market for them and Vieste will get Duke to market for Vieste. Why so many layers? Doesn’t this up the costs? If it’s a good deal or prospect, why isn’t Duke or other master developers coming to us?]

Ullrich wanted firmer plans- and no pipes or roads built to nowhere. If there are no willing sellers, there is nothing to do there.

Mitter- How did you pick the NW Quadrant? Answer: topography (flat), access to infrastructure like I-74, proximity to Honda and Cincinnati, and attractive to the private sector.
Mitter- During the Comp Plan Jackson Township was identified as an Ag area. Infrastructure is more toward St. Leon. Comp plan says to start where infrastructure exists and not further away where you have to spend money to run the infrastructure to it. I think you are too far west.
Comparato- Hedging a bit on the TIFs said that they actually just recommended a different approach from TIFs to NW Quad.
Mitter- Why didn’t you engage the people at the advisory meetings or at the public meeting for St. Leon?
Comparato said something about it not being their intention not to engage…
He also said that Honda was simply a catalyst for the process.
Mitter said he expected fresh ideas form an outside consultant but wanted this “married” to the master plan. He thought the timeline was pretty aggressive.
Comparato thinks that they can do it as early as May even. We are not recommending we run infrastructure to a TIF in anticipation, but wait till we see some use.
Higgins said we may see some growth there, but not like what you need to really get economic development.

Mitter- What about eminent domain?
Comparato – We work for you- we have not instructed or suggested using it.
Ullrich- I think we’re all on the same page there.
Toyota has two plants and peripheral development in Georgetown, KY. He talked about US 50 and 129 in Batesville….
Cheek – if infrastructure isn’t there, will companies come? Comparato- yes- if you have the money ready to put into it and the economic terms they are looking for.
Kraus- Will the master developer own the property?
Comparato- Yes- and doing this plan will go a long way to sending a signal to master developers that we are serious.

Fehrman- At what point do we approach landowners or developers? Comparato- Developers are reading the papers, news, and people are talking- word is getting out.
Ullrich- this all has to go through the plan commission? Answer – Yes- land is not rezoned till it goes to the Plan Commission.
[NOTE: The overlay zone however creates a “pressure” to rezone and if the landowners are not in favor in general, this can be a negative for them.]

Kraus- Can we exclude the NW Quadrant from our vote tonight if we want to?
Comparato- yes- ultimately this is the county’s plan.
Morris- If at some point we don’t like this can we opt out? Answer- they hedged a bit here- would have to pay for services up to that point.
Lansing- Can the building piece go forward but the economic development piece stop?
Answer- Yes.
Mitter- I cannot emphasize enough that the public needs to be involved. I’ve seen two failed mater plans and the one that went through, we did ourselves to be sure the public was involved. I can’t emphasize enough how important that is in this county. (APPLAUSE)

Higgins and Comparato stressed again that the end result most surely won’t look like this plan. (They said this at commissioner’s also)

Public Comment:

Sandy StengerWhitehead- presented the following prepared statement:

My name is Sandy Whitehead and my husband Jay and I reside at 29370 Blue Creek Road with our 4 children ages 2, 4, 6, and 8. I grew up on Blue Creek Road, and my husband and I have every intention of raising our children in this neighborhood. Part of the property that we own would be devastated by the proposed link of Feller Road to Steinhauser Road, plus depending on the range of the development we may not be able to live in our home anymore. A lot of the people here are my neighbors, people who also have lived in this community all or most of their lives.

I spent many days this past week informing our neighbors of the proposed economic development of the I-74 corridor in northwest Dearborn County. Many were shocked and angered by the fact that a project of this size and nature was being developed without anyone in the affected area knowing. Many were afraid that their land would be taken away. Besides all of those facts, my husband was considerably upset that someone besides officials who are elected by us and paid by our tax dollars, felt obligated to alert the public. Why weren’t the residents of Blue Creek, Steinhauser, Feller, St. Peter’s, County Line, and Highway 46 notified about this project?

I must admit that Jim West of the Dearborn County Economic Development Initiative and Bret Fehrman of Fehrman Realty visited my parents, Earl and Rita Stenger, a few weeks ago regarding acquiring property for commercial development. However, not once did either man mention the scope and breadth of this project.

Carl and Lois Bohman, neighbors that own land on Feller Road, were also recently contacted by Fehrman Realty about selling their land. A realtor contacting two major land owners in the same area. Did the realtors know something that the residents of the area did not?

Maybe the bylaws of Dearborn County do not require that citizens be kept abreast of proposed projects. They should. This has done nothing but cause many people to harbor ill will towards the government of our county.

I would really like to thank Ralph Thompson, our newest Commissioner. He seems to be the voice of the people. Ralph had the courage to say on the public record that he did not know enough about this project, or how the affected people felt about it, to vote on it until he got more information.

According to the Phase I Report, the location for this project was selected based on the proximity to Greensburg and the new Honda plant. Time and again I have heard from my neighbors and friends, “Why would potential suppliers to the Honda plant want to operate 30 minutes from Greensburg when there are 3 viable exits closer, not including the exits directly west of Greensburg?” As far as I know, no commercial or industrial entity is interested in the northwest corner of Dearborn County. The first full paragraph of Page 2-6 of the Comprehensive Capital Program Management Phase I Report discusses improving the infrastructure of the area to attempt to attract development. Page 2-7, 2nd paragraph of this report states clearly that no potential user for the area has been identified. If this information has changed I would certainly like to know.

As for proximity to the Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area also mentioned in this report, the West Harrison Tax Increment Financing District or TIF is geographically closer. Granted the report states that the West Harrison TIF would only attract a mix of retail and commercial developments versus the Northwest Quadrant’s attraction of potential longer term, major development opportunity (as quoted from the Phase I report), but it still means jobs for the county. Couple that with the major factor that land in the West Harrison TIF district is for sale and in the proposed NW Quadrant Economic Development area, from my standpoint, is not.

On the subject of TIF districts, the report discusses the current status of other existing TIF districts including St. Leon and West Aurora. Again, why aren’t the county’s efforts more focused on developing these already existing parcels? Under the “Project Area Description” for each of the referenced TIF districts, the Phase I report states, “To date, the area has been designated by Dearborn County as an Economic Development Area but no detailed planning, no actual infrastructure design or construction has been performed, and no land acquisition strategy has been formulated.” Anticipated infrastructure improvements are given, but also in each of the three cases the same sentence is utilized: “Until a future land use plan is put into place for this area and potential users are identified, it is difficult to establish a set infrastructure needs cost to facilitate development.”

At some juncture, time, effort, and money was expended into the three existing Dearborn County TIF districts. The property was available, and more importantly someone or some group felt these would be viable areas to the economic advancement of our county. I would like to encourage the council to deny any further advancement of the NW Quadrant Economic Development area proposal. I would instead encourage the Council to focus it’s efforts, as well as the Economic Development Initiative group, on the existing sub-standard TIF districts.

I appreciate the time given this evening to discuss my feelings regarding this project, as well as my findings after reading the Phase I report. To conclude, I would like to distribute to the Council copies of landowner’s signatures not interested in selling, a plat map with their property highlighted in green, and my comments. I was unable to contact everyone involved due to the time constraints. I would like for these highlighted areas to remain “green space.” Thank you.

Carl Bohman- At Sunday I went to church and was informed that the county wanted our land for economic development. Our schools are full, the fire dept. is volunteer, and sewage doesn’t exist here. All has to be built out here. Greensburg had to build a fire dept. for Honda. I don’t think we need that much more employment. You say our taxes won’t increase, but I don’t trust politicians- taxes will increase. I’m a farmer and I will lose ¾ of my farm and it will destroy me. I’ve worked 40 years for it- we’re happy here. God doesn’t make any more farm ground- he is making more people- and we farmers have to feed them.
What will I do with the money for my farm? Invest it? Get paper from the bank? I can’t eat that. I can eat what I make on my farm. What about the old people here. I know two of these old farmers- if you moved them off their land I believe they would die. Who’s making the money? Not me. Let us alone- go away.

Ullrich- You can stay there.
Morris- Eminent domain is misinformation.
Mitter- as far as the schools go if the boat dollars go away for whatever reasons, we have to control development or find a way to offset our taxes.
Carl Bohman- Every area has something to contribute- Detroit cars- Pittsburgh- steel- why can’t Dearborn County export people?
Put this in YOUR backyard.
Ullrich- your part of the county should be able to contribute in your own way.

Susan ____ from N County Line Road- asked if environmental impact study was done. Answer. No
Asked if the interchange was necessary- Answer- maybe not.
She said- I moved here because of the type of are that this is at St. Peters- that’s what WE call it- not NW Quadrant. It’s a community in a rural setting. Industries and economic development belongs in cities and towns, but leave small rural communities alone. It’s more than just flat land. When you say “it’s inevitable that it will happen” that just means you will give in.

John Alexander- Does the law allow eminent domain? Answer- The Redevelopment Commission has the power to do that.
What if other politicians come into office? No answer.

Jeffery Earl Stenger
12606 Locust Lane
Sunman, IN 47041 presented the following:

My name is Jeff Stenger, resident and landowner in northwest Dearborn County. I would like to first speak briefly to the overall plan before us tonight. The County has many capital improvement needs as it exists today. It appears as though all of the people with knowledge in each respective area from Criminal Justice, Public Safety, Emergency Management, Parks and Recreation, and Transportation have assessed the County’s needs, present and future. Further planning for these facilities and improvements may be warranted at this time

I would like to preface my comments by stating that I am in favor of economic development. I also strongly believe in private property rights. One of those rights is the ability to sell our land, when we want to and to whomever we want to. I want it to be very clear that I believe that everyone has that right and has earned that right. I believe that it is also important as a point of reference to mention that if this plan were implemented, there is probably no single landowner in the area that has the potential to benefit more financially than my mother and father and my family. While the plan before us tonight may have some merit as a long term, 20 or 30 year plan, I am against the portion of the plan referred to as THE NORTHWEST QUADRANT as presented and written.

On page 2-2, the summary begins by establishing future land use designation and overlay zoning requirements on the area for use in marketing to master developers. Overlay zoning requirements present the opportunity to restrict and infringe on our private property rights by adding an additional set of zoning requirements that we may be subject to in the continued use of our land. The idea of a master developer for the area precludes other developers and businesses from locating and/or competing for opportunity within the area, which in effect defeats the main County goal of keeping our tax dollars at home.

The addition of a highway interchange at St. Peters Road to I-74 has the potential to further increase the development pressure of the housing market immediately adjacent on the north and south of this proposed commercial area, which would lead to a negative effect of the overall project. The Penntown interchange at S.R. 101 is located 3.2 miles west of this location and St. Leon/ S.R. 1 interchange is 4.7 miles east, and is connected by existing S.R. 46. Access to this area is currently very adequate, and an additional interchange in this area now or in the near future is unwarranted.

Discrepancies and inconsistencies in the project area description, cost estimates, timing, and development plans on pages 2-4 through 2-9, cause me to question the accuracy and integrity of the overall cost estimates and plan.

It is difficult to believe that 71 million is proposed being spent on this project and it won’t cost taxpayers a dime if it sells, but it is most important to remember that failure could result in extensive debt to the taxpayer’s of the entire county, and a black eye that will have to be dealt with by the people in this area for generations to come.

In my opinion, the County would benefit in a much larger scale by investing in the existing TIF districts that much time and effort have already been spent on. Sites within this area are nearly “shovel ready”, with only improvements to existing infrastructure needed in the cases of St. Leon and West Harrison (maybe Aurora also, I am not as familiar with). These areas have already begun to develop and several small businesses exist. Any improvements made to transportation/infrastructure in these areas would help these existing businesses to flourish as well as attract new businesses. Urban sprawl would continue in its natural progression instead of jumping leap years ahead and potentially causing an undesirable explosion in areas that have always been targeted for protection against this. In the event no new industries/businesses were attracted, these improvements would only lead to more orderly traffic circulation and potentially higher quality of life.

A colorful friend once told me “You will always have another opportunity to make more money, buy a new car, or build a new home, but they aren’t making any more land, so cherish what you have.”

Stenger later commented that the $778,000 for this preliminary phase could be better used to buy options for land in the TIFs. He also commented that the ADM Bldg needed upgrades too. Kraue agreed.

Mike Rozow- Chamber of Commerce – supports it because rather than being reactive it is proactive. We have a roadmap of future needs. He thought the land bank idea was good to put assets in and set it aside. He agreed that eminent domain should be struck from the county and never used. He asked how many people have kids who work here in the county. He noted that 20,000 in the workforce, with 13,000 working elsewhere and 4,000 coming into the county for work. [NOTE: That means that technically 4,000 jobs exist here that our workers are NOT taking advantage of.]
There is no 20-year plan- our quality of life goes down the tube and kids won’t get any jobs.

Kraus said- Some people live here because they do not want to live where they work! (Applause) Some debt could be retired if we don’t continue all this and taxes could decrease.

Mitter wants his kids to have a better life-wants to slow down the brain drain. We need to have jobs for the education we are giving our kids.

Terry Bogan- St Peters- The master developer for NW Quadrant could be also for other areas. Why not concentrate on the TIFs? When you drive to KY you see hospitals, fire depts., sewer plants etc. You don’t see that here. You are starting with Legos here and you need a crane!
I don’t want to see Vieste benefit hugely and the people here benefit very little.

Fehrman asked if Jim West of DCEDI wanted to speak- he shook his head, “No.”

Mark Hall business owner of Ag business in Northern Dearborn County- I lived here 54 years, we farm, and our kids want to live here. Our community is to be USED to build taxes for the rest of the county. It’s like a checkbook. You allowed too much development to come in and now you are asking us to pay for it when you can’t.
Asked how old Vieste was- Answer- 2 years.- from Indianapolis.
Asked who they work for- Answer- works with the county administrator and DCEDI is just part of the group we work with.
Asked- Is there a NW Quadrant citizen on this committee? Answer- after some discussion- NO.
Hall noted that DCEDI headed by Bill Ritzmann of UCB is a private group- public cannot attend their meetings. Hall was told by Ritzmann that to attend you have to join at $5,000. So it’s pay to play.
The county will go to L-g said Hall to borrow money to get this done or they will use gambling revenues. It will put us in debt!


Council discussion:
Kraus- definitely opposed to NW Quadrant. This should go to the TIFS and other St. Leon property that is for sale. Jail buildings etc are ok with him- would like to see adm bldg added.
Ullrich- our buildings all need space- OK with jail plan.
Mitter- Asked why the jail was crowded and cited an instance of incarceration of a man for a 7-year-old failure to appear for a hunting license violation.
Cheek- Labor oriented family background- good pay and good benefits needed. Can’t rule out ANY area in the county for economic development. There would be clean businesses- no one has made a deal or property sold here. Closer to get to work if it was here. Gas prices high. Jail is a necessary evil- have to do that.
Lansing- In favor of getting economic development. Noted how much Greendale changed since he was a kid.
Morris- Our soldiers have less space that our prisoners. Favors the jail though. Economic development- favors the TIFS but entire county should be considered for economic development.
Mitter- Jail OK but has reservations on things going on there. Suggests TABLING the NW Quadrant- it’s muddying the waters- there has not been nearly enough planning consideration of it. Middle ground can be found without taking from the farmer by eminent domain. We need to work with the community to find that plan and common ground. As to DCEDI- I’m displeased with them- they serve too many masters- they have taxpayer dollars- they have private entities and collaboration, but they are not responsive to the county. We should take DCEDI money and give it to Vieste or whomever- I see duplication of efforts.

Fehrman- It’s unanimous for the jail portion of the plan plus some ADM BLDG needs.

$612,000.47 was approved from Growth and Development Fund 147 for the jail and other buildings.

The NW Quadrant portion was TABLED to get a committee together in about 2 weeks on Feb 13 at 6PM to see what process should be set up for economic development. They are going to use 1 commissioner, 1 council , the cty adm, plan director, Vieste and London Witte. Mitter will serve as Council’s rep on this.

3. Bill Black- EMA- got fund set up for grants to administer funds.

4. Lusby- Sheriff- got salary ordinance signed and approval to move funds to cover $40,000 jail commander’s salary using some part time money.
Mitter commended Lusby on professional handling of the hunting license violator in jail.

5. Stephanie Disbro was approved to take Ass’t GIS position at her 1st Deputy salary. Her Adm ass’t position will be filled as a 3rd deputy spot. Cheek (nothing against Stephanie) noted that a bachelor degreed IT person applied for GIS spot and was not considered. It was his son in law. Thought county should be hiring on qualifications.
Cheek said he did NOT call to pave the way for son- in-law, as he wanted it on his own merits.

6. COIT distribution signed again- same as 2006 leaving Solid Waste out as they have their own levy.

7. Fehrman said – 2 years ago we decided along with Lawrenceburg to share Riverboat money regionally for economic development to help keep it in the county, when legislature tried to take it. Honda got $10million form Lawrenceburg, but our $300,000 was not used. We still have it and we could give that to the Redevelopment Commission as a vehicle to purchase options to get economic development started.

Jim West- representing Redevelopment Commission and DCEDI- wanted to address these funds. We need a real estate product. We’ve talked to property owners along the I-74 corridor and they are willing to sell as long as it’s NOT for residential. We need seed money. DCEDI has committed $50,000. We approached Charlie Fehrman about it also. We found out we have some people interested in giving money if the county gave some too. We can use the county’s $300,000 plus $50,000 to leverage more money for these land options.
We would like to have it truly available to the Redevelopment Commission in case someone is willing to sell after tonight.
Question- Can we set it up like the sewer money to only release it when ready?
Kraus- I just figured out why they want the NW Quadrant- you get land for $10,000 vs $50-60,000 in St. Leon area. We need to oversee this.
Morris- We don’t want to hamstring them to have to wait for a council meeting.
Pickens- You can call a meeting with 3 days notice.
Mitter- I don’t trust DCEDI- it pains me to say that. When I feel I just can’t get an honest or straight answer- I just don’t trust them.
What happens if Redevelopment buys land not in keeping with the Master Plan?
Fehrman- The land bank has to have an inventory to show.
Cheek – willing to move on it. Morris 2nd . They released $300,000 for Redevelopment Commission for land acquisition and purchase options. MITTER _ NAY- all others AYE.

Krause- Don’t want all our eggs in one basket in the NW Quadrant.

8. Board Appointments:
Julia Dickey- Lbg Library
Nancy Turner- Aurora Library
Kraus- advisory board
Ullrich- EMA and Animal Control
Fehrman- DCEDI and CVTB
Mitter- Plan Commission with agreement that Cheek would take over if Mitter requests.
Cheek- Solid Waste
Mark McCormack- OKI
Jake Hoog- BZA
Ralph Schafer- Alcohol Board
Morris- Juvenile detention
Ron Selmeyer- SIRPC
Division of Family and Children- stays as is till state changes rules.

9. Signed for provisional bills for taxes again
Treasurer filed a lien against PSEG so AEP can’t buy it. County share of the $5.6 million taxes is $300,000. Most of the rest is for schools.

10. Signed interlocal agreement for lobbyist.

11. Fehrman then asked Mitter to air his issues about DCEDI. [NOTE: A little after the fact considering they already voted on money they asked for.]
Fehrman – outlined the issues with Mariah Business Park, Lisa Lehner, their att’y and also DCEDI’s, and Kramer the Mariah owner who is in violation and in court over county issues with running a recreational ATV park essentially on Ag zoned land.
Fehrman left out all the names however.
Mitter’s issue was with DCEDI sending Jim West to support the rezone request of someone in violation of county ordinances. Ritzmann had told Mitter that DCEDI viewed Kramer as a seller of land and not as a developer. [NOTE: However, Kramer is Mariah DEVELOPMENT]
West said he was only wanting the rezone- not supporting the developer.
Mitter went on about the attorney accusing him (Mitter) of lying, doctoring photos, and saying that he had too much influence and shouldn’t be allowed to speak at the zoning hearing. Mitter had stepped down from the board for that application.
West said it was the closest thing they had to a SHOVEL READY SITE and it was recently shown to some Honda suppliers. Morris empathized with Mitter as she has zoning violators next door also. BUT she saw the zone change support as OK.
Kraus and Ullrich motioned and 2nd to release $25,000 to DCEDI. Mitter Nay all others aye.
Rozow and West told the board that the county does not pay DCEDI. It goes through the Chamber, Redevelopment, and CVTB. [NOTE: It still gets used for the economic development purposes.]

Meeting adjourned 12:50 AM

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

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