Economic development area to expand

Friday, May 23, 2008


Assistant Editor

Greencastle officials are working quickly to expand the downtown area's economic development district, which is mostly confined to the area of the Walden Inn, in hopes of beating a new law that will take effect on July 1.

House Bill 1001, passed during the last legislative session, makes changes to how cities can use the money captured in these designated areas and Greencastle, like other cities, is hoping to get around it.

City Attorney Laurie Hardwick explained that when a business in the Economic Development District undertakes a construction project or makes improvements, the city is able to capture the additional property taxes generated and use it for its own purposes.

Currently, the city can use the money for various projects, such as road improvements, in any area of the city. But the new law, she said, requires cities to use the money in the actual Economic Development Area or in a connecting area. Most of the city lay outside the Economic Development Area, which greatly reduces where that money can be spent.

What this means for Greencastle is the Redevelopment Commission will not be able to use the money to make future improvements to the downtown area since most of it does not lie within the Economic Development Area. But that is about to change.

On Wednesday, the Redevelopment Commission approved a resolution that more than doubles the size of the downtown Economic Development Area and includes all of downtown. This, officials hope, will allow them to use the money as they have planned.

On Wednesday, the commission was presented with a map of the downtown area showing where the new boundary lines will be drawn. Copies can be obtained at city hall.

The current district covers the Walden Inn and nearby Marvin's restaurant and Ashley Cinema, according to the city attorney. The city is hoping to massively increase the size of the area.

Hardwick said the business encompassed in the area won't see an increase in taxes. What it means, she said, is that if they make improvements to their businesses, the additional property taxes that are generated by the project will be captured by the city for future use.

The area generally includes all the downtown area from as far northwest as the old Jones School (Putnam County Courthouse Annex) southward to the Walden Inn, and eastward to city hall, including about two blocks on either side of Washington Street.

The Redevelopment Commission approved the resolution to allow the changes at their meeting Wednesday night, however, the city council has to vote on it and send it back to the Redevelopment Commission for final approval.

City officials are hoping to move through with the changes before the new law takes effect July 1.

There will be time for public comment at city council.

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