The plan to expand Greencastle's downtown economic development area got a second approval Tuesday night with the city plan commission offering its unanimous approval.
Last week, the redevelopment commission approved a resolution to expand the economic development area from it current size of a few blocks near DePauw University to the entire city center. This includes everything from the Putnam County Courthouse Annex on West Liberty Street eastward to City Hall.
City Attorney Laurie Hardwick explained to the plan commission Tuesday night that the expansion will allow the city to use property tax revenue generated by businesses in the downtown area to make improvements to the area.
Mayor Sue Murray said the city wants to use some of the money to purchase new energy-efficient street lights for the downtown area. They would replace the street lamps currently in use around the square.
Plan commission members, like those of the redevelopment commission, said they supported the plan to expand the economic development area in order to generate money to make improvements.
"It's really going to move us in the right direction to redevelop the downtown," plan commission president Bill Hamm said.
Hardwick pointed out that benches have been ordered for the downtown area and will be arriving soon.
The reason the city is moving to expand the economic development area was explained at last week's redevelopment commission meeting and reiterated Tuesday night.
A new law that takes effect July 1 requires municipalities with economic development areas to use the money generated there for projects in that same area. Right now, the city can use the dollars for projects throughout the city. Most of the city is not under the economic development area.
"Now in order to do these projects (in the downtown area), we have to expand the area," Hardwick said. "There's a flurry of activity going on in cities across Indiana to adjust their districts."
City officials say business owners in the newly expanded area won't see any increase in their property taxes. However, if they make significant additions to their business, such as building on an addition, and the assessed value of their property goes up, the additional property taxes that are generated will be captured by the city to be used for economic improvements to the district.
Next the plan will go to the city council where it must be approved before being sent back to the redevelopment commission for final passage.