Property owners in the area of the proposed TIF district spoke out against the designation, saying it would open up their part of the county to more industrial development. Jessica Karins | Daily Reporter
Property owners in the area of the proposed TIF district spoke out against the designation, saying it would open up their part of the county to more industrial development. Jessica Karins | Daily Reporter
GREENFIELD — Light pollution. Construction noise. Increased traffic and more accidents. Decreased home value.

Those are just some of the concerns some residents share about the proposed Red Rock Investment Partners development in western Buck Creek Township. They vented their frustrations at a meeting of the county’s redevelopment commission on Tuesday, August 3. Though the meeting was about a proposed tax increment financing district in the area — which would funnel tax revenue back into infrastructure to benefit future developments — residents were clearly unhappy with development happening at all.

Numerous residents of the area in and around the planned TIF district spoke up at the meeting to object to the proposal. They have several concerns about the development, which will bring three buildings totaling more than 2.2 million square feet to the area north of County Road 200N and east and west of Buck Creek Road.

McCordsville resident Sandra Hudson, whose house is in the area, said the TIF district will make it easier for other land in the surrounding area to be rezoned for commercial uses, meaning development could soon absorb what is currently residential land.

“The expansion will bring irreparable harm to the residential homeowners in the proposed area,” Hudson said. “...The proposed west allocation area opens the door to more rezoning industrial requests.”

Hudson said any estimated economic benefits from the TIF district are “only a guess,” and that companies often move on after their tax benefits expire.

Though residents raised the issue of the TIF diverting money from the area’s schools and public safety departments, Buck Creek Township Fire Department Chief Dave Sutherlin said such districts are really the only way his and other departments can circumvent Indiana’s property tax caps. Capital expenses can be paid for with TIF district money.

Sutherlin noted that his department’s rating from the Insurance Services Organization improved in its latest assessment, a measure of its performance that impacts insurance rates for homeowners in the area.

“I know we would not have been able to do that if it weren’t for the development,” he said.

The RDC ultimately voted unanimously in favor of a confirmatory resolution on the TIF district, which would be the fifth one in Hancock County.

There is one more step in the TIF district approval process; the matter will go back before the Hancock County Board of Commissioners for final action. Commissioner John Jessup said the commissioners will likely consider the matter later this month or early in September.

The commissioners have voted on the matter once previously. Jessup and Bill Spalding voted in favor, while Marc Huber voted against, saying he would not support the TIF district without more assurances that it would benefit public safety and the Mt. Vernon school corporation.

Randy Sorrell, director of the Hancock Economic Development Council, said he knows the decision is a difficult one to make politically, but he thinks the TIF district will be effective.

“If the political will isn’t there to move that forward, that’s the landscape we all live with,” he said.

Sorrell said he wasn’t surprised this TIF district attracted more public attention and dissent than the county’s four others; this area, unlike the others, has a large number of single-family homes contained within it, including two neighborhoods.

Shani Williams lives on the Marion County side of the county line and owns Morgan Acres, an event venue with a rustic feel that she feels will vanish due to the nearby construction of both the Red Rock development and a nearby Marion County project.

“It’s going to be very much affected by the development of a concrete jungle beside us and behind us,” she said. “...I’m very concerned about that as a business owner; I’m very concerned about that as a neighbor and a homeowner.”

In addition to her worries about her business, Williams said she’s also noticed an increase in traffic; several crashes have taken place outside her home, she said. She said two recent accidents necessitated 911 calls, and it took up to 45 minutes for police and fire to respond. Sutherlin said those accidents were handled by Marion County first-responders.

“I’m very concerned about what’s going to happen when all of this traffic increases and we don’t have money allocated for increased police and fire department assistance to help with that,” Williams said.

RDC membership

Another dispute took place at the Hancock County Budget Committee meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 4, when members of the county council, along with Jessup spoke about the TIF district dispute. Members of the council, several of whom attended the RDC meeting, were keen to fill their vacancy on that board with one of their own, council member Kent Fisk.

Fisk said he believed it was important to have an elected official on the RDC because voters who are unhappy with its decisions currently have no way of expressing that at the ballot box. He also said the elected officials should be more involved with development processes like the current one, and able to answer the questions people raised at the Tuesday meeting.

“We should already be asking those questions about light pollution, about the timeline for fixing the roads,” he said.

Council member Jeannine Gray said she doesn’t believe current members of the RDC have communicated well enough with the council and commissioners about the details of proposals like the west TIF district. She added it would be helpful to have one of the council’s own members in those conversations.

“I personally am tired of playing catch-up,” Gray said.

Jessup objected to the idea of adding an elected official to the RDC. If that were done, he said, nothing would stop the council from filling both its slots with its own members, or the commissioners from filling their three slots themselves. That could lead to a power struggle since the commissioners also have the power to remove any appointee from the board.

Despite Jessup’s cautions, the council still plans to discuss possibly appointing Fisk to the RDC at its next meeting.
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