City Debates Helping Liegl Develop His Land
An appropriation of $200,000 for work related to industrial-zoned land on the north side of Goshen, Ind., drew a long debate at Tuesday’s (Feb. 15) meeting of the Goshen City Council.
The money, to come from the city’s Major Moves Fund, would be used to complete design of water and sewer utilities for the land along Ind. 15, owned by Pete Liegl, the CEO of Forest River, Inc., The Goshen News reported. Liegl owns roughly 500 acres, 160 of which have already been annexed into the city and zoned industrial in preparation for a potential new industrial park.
Mayor Allan Kauffman, who brought the ordinance to the council, explained in a memo that the idea is to be as prepared as possible when developers are ready to build.
“When the economy turns, and if someone wants to build on that land and bring good-paying jobs to Goshen, we wouldn’t want to have a delay while utilities to the site are designed,” Kauffman said in the memo. “Once designed, they can likely be constructed in the amount of time it would take for the developer to put up a building.”
Kauffman said he had not yet spoken with Liegl, only one of his compatriots, Mike Stump, and that it was his own idea. And although the appropriation would only be for design work, with no construction beginning until a developer began moving forward, some council members felt it was not the right time for the effort.
“The questions that I’m getting are about the $200,000 spent up front now for design when I’m not sure how long it would take (for the land to be developed),” Councilman Don Riegsecker said.
Councilman Jeremy Stutsman asked whether it was possible to speak with Liegl and his group to see if they would be willing to put up some of the funding for the work. Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County (EDC), said that in her time before working for the EDC, she had a face-to-face with Stump and Liegl in which it appeared they were quite unhappy with their prior dealings with the city.
“I think it’s inappropriate to go to him for funding,” Heiden-Guss said. “It might be a more negative PR relationship.”
Stutsman, Councilman Everett Thomas and Councilman Tom Stump each feel the appropriation could wait for more information.
A motion to delete the item failed, and the ordinance was eventually passed on first reading.
Also included in the ordinance were appropriations of $5,219 for the EDC, $10,000 for the North Central Indiana Business Assistance Network, $40,000 for one-third of the costs related to a sewer extension along Wilden Avenue, $100,000 from two tax increment financing district funds for training reimbursement grants, $30,420 for a reimbursement to Wightman Petrie Inc. for the Safe Routes to School — 11th Street sidewalk project, just under $2 million of general obligation bond proceeds that were not encumbered from 2010 and $45,000 for the salary of the city’s brownfield coordinator, which was not included in the 2011 budget accidentally.
The appropriations for NCI and the EDC were also questioned due to the amount of money the city already pays for economic development, but were left intact.
A final vote on second reading is scheduled for the council’s next meeting on March 1.