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Council
debates
abatement

The sight of a semi tractor-trailer crossing over the double yellow line, as seen here, happens frequently at the dangerous "S" curve on 109th Avenue, east of Broadway, creating a potentially dangerous condition.  The city is moving to correct the situation, however, by taking the "S" out of the curve.
By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT — A request for a tax abatement on property at Broadway and Summit Street has injected a sense of urgency into city officials’ deliberations over how to promote business development along the corridor.
    Local developer Tim Heidbreder has requested that the city extend its “economic revitalization area” to include 14 acres on the southwest corner of Broadway and Summit, and grant a property tax abatement for development there.
    Heidbreder’s attorney, Bruce Lambka, told the City Council on Monday that Heidbreder is in negotiations with a pharmaceutical company that would bring 160 jobs to the city, but won’t locate here without a tax abatement.
    And, “they’re not going to wait,” Lambka told the council.
    But council members said they would not grant an abatement request on Broadway until they’ve reviewed a report being prepared by financial consultant Greg Guerrettaz on the costs and benefits of using tax abatements and tax increment financing districts.
    “I’m not going to feel comfortable going on intuition,” Councilman Robert Corbin, R-5th, said. He said Guerrettaz’s report will be a tool the council can use to decide whether tax abatements or a TIF district are appropriate.
    Under a tax abatement, property owners pay 10 percent of the property taxes resulting from their development in the first year after development, increasing by increments of 10 percent each year until reaching 100 percent.
    In a TIF district, all property taxes are collected, but can be used only for infrastructure development within the district.
    In both cases, county, township, school and library taxes are affected.
    Besides needing more information, council members expressed concern that granting one tax abatement now would mean granting them to everyone who comes later.
    “If we open the door, we’re going to set a precedent,” Councilman Paul Bremer, R-1st, said.Also, part of Heidbreder’s 14 acres would be dedicated to retail development, and council members were reluctant about granting an abatement to retailers.
    “I think we need to be concerned about the impact on the current retail structure,” Councilman Jack Kemp, R-4th, said.
    Retailers with tax abatements could gain a competitive advantage over those without, he argued.
    Councilwoman Pam Roth, R-3rd, questioned the rationale behind tax abatements, especially on Broadway.
    Merrillville has not granted any on their portion of Broadway south of U.S. 30, she said.
    “I can’t believe people who say ‘we won’t build without an abatement’,” she added.
    In the end, the council accepted first reading of the ordinance that would extend the city’s economic revitalization area, and agreed to hold a public hearing on granting Heidbreder’s request for a tax abatement.
    The date of the hearing on final votes on the matter will depend on when Guerrettaz completes his study.
109th to lose its
"S" Curve

By Karen Caffarini
Star Editor

CROWN POINT — The Board of Works on July 28 took the first step toward straightening out one of the more dangerous stretches of road in the community, the “S” curve on 109th Avenue.
    “This proposal is decades long in need. It’s a very dangerous situation there,” City Engineer Jeff Ban said as he recommended the board approve the hiring of RQAW to do preliminary work on the project at a cost not to exceed $43,900.
    RQAW will gather information from property owners in the area, do design work and prepare cost estimates for the project, Ban said.
    The “S”-curve, located east of Broadway, entered into Crown Point jurisdiction in 1998 as part of an annexation. The road was originally given an S shape, city officials said, because of the now abandoned railroad tracks that went through that area.
    Ban said the city has two options: to either take the jog out and put pavement in its place or to look at the problem more as a whole, with curbs and sidewalks added. He would not recommend one approach over the other at this time.
    Ban noted that Winfield and Crown Point, as well as Lake and Porter counties, have long discussed their concerns about the heavily traveled 109th Avenue, which connects Broadway and Route 2 and is becoming an alternate to Route 30 for some drivers. He said the four entities asked, in a joint letter, that the two-lane road be designated a regional priority corridor, but no action was taken by the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission.
    Ban said the four governmental entities believe the road should be widened to either a four-lane road, a two-lane road with turn lanes or some other alternative.“There should certainly be more than two lanes,” he stated.Mayor James Metros agreed. “In the winter there is nowhere to go if there is a problem. You either go in a ditch or hit another (vehicle) head-on,” he said.Metros noted, however, that the project could cost millions of dollars, money that the local communities do not have.
    Winfield Town Council President Garry Rinkenberger said his preference would be to install a center turn lane, which he said would be the best safety improvement for the least amount of money.
    He also noted that a one-lane improvement doesn’t present a red flag for pollution problems as two lanes would, and that it wouldn’t cause as great a problem for people living along the road to get into and out of their driveways.
    “Four lanes won’t slow people down any and it would pretty much guarantee people living along the road will not be able to get out of their driveways,” he said.He also pointed out that it wouldn’t make sense to make 109th Avenue four lanes when both Route 2 and Broadway are two-lane roads where they meet 109th.

 

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