Roachdale redevelopment reigns at town meeting

Friday, February 13, 2015

ROACHDALE -- Formation of a redevelopment commission was a paramount talking point during the Town of Roachdale's monthly town council meeting Tuesday.

Joe Buser and Holly Cook of the Roachdale Revitalization Cooperative Alliance introduced Jim Coffenberry, an economic development specialist with the West Central Indiana Economic Development District, to speak about the ways in which an appointed redevelopment commission can help towns like Roachdale.

Coffenberry cited recent regional successes of such commissions as examples.

"We just recently, down in Cloverdale, designated a new economic development area that will cover from the town limits north of (Interstate) 70, all the way down through the end of town. Basically what that means is that any new development that occurs henceforth from March 1 on, any of the new assessment that occurs, the taxes off that will be able to be captured by the redevelopment commission and put back in to that area," Coffenberry told the board.

One area that a commission can act as a catalyst for redevelopment is through the adjustment of how specific taxes are dispersed, or rather not dispersed but kept within a specifically designated development area.

"Those tax dollars, instead of going out and being distributed amongst all the different units all over the county, stay right there, so that the town of Cloverdale can use those," he explained.

Coffenberry elaborated, saying that redevelopment commissions don't simply add taxes to communities, they work in towns on a zone-by-zone basis.

In one case in Brazil, for example, residents of select neighborhoods were spoken with and agreed to an additional tax.

The tax increase over a 12-months period was something about equal to "a case of Coke," and provide enough funding to replace and repair the roads.

"I don't know if you've ever driven through the side streets of Brazil but it's like the Baja." Coffenberry said.

Through a series of examples, Coffenberry pointed out that property acquisition through a redevelopment commission is an invaluable tool for towns.

"Say, as the town you have a piece of property that's been abandoned for a long time, nobody's paid back-taxes and there's no hope of that, you (the town council) could turn that over to the redevelopment commission. Under their powers, they have the ability to ask the auditor to basically extinguish all back-taxes on that property so right there, you've taken away one negative for that property," he said.

"So if the next-door neighbor might want to take a look at just taking the property and knocking the building down, if you want to get it off tax rolls, you could actually give them the building and have them knock it down and at minimum use it as a yard and it would then begin to generate taxes.

"The town on the other hand, couldn't do it that way because you (the town council) have to sell property for what the market value is, you don't have any choice. That's the price you have to sell it for. As the redevelopment commission, they have special powers that allow them to basically cut whatever kind of deal that they feel is appropriate to have a property redeveloped."

Another positive aspect of the commission is that they are not able to make final decisions without prior approval by the town council, whether financial or otherwise, providing a system for checks and balances to keep the commission beholden to local government.

"There are just a whole bunch of things that a redevelopment commission can do for the town that you (the town council) can't necessarily do for yourself right now," Coffenberry said.

"And that's the whole reason that they created the whole redevelopment commission concept. In a nutshell, that is in essence, what a redevelopment commission is."

The main goal of the group would be to provide Roachdale with additional avenues of achieving development goals, from dilapidated buildings to tax abatements.

"I think twice we've had an issue with a redevelopment commission member in the areas that I worked with and at any point in time you (the town council) can send a letter to the member and say 'we thank you for your service but it's no longer needed' and you can make a change that easily."

"There are a lot of ways that I haven't even discussed that you can't work with it."

While no decision was made Tuesday night to actually create a redevelopment commission, the board explained it wanted to conduct more research on the topic, but that it was interested in the idea.

Although no actual approval was necessary, the board was receptive to Buser's inquiry about gathering potential members, ideas and further development of a potential commission to be presented at next month's town council meeting.

Roachdale Town Council meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, March 10 at the Roachdale Town Hall.

Other topics discussed by the town council will be published in a separate article in the Banner Graphic.

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