RDC Meeting June 14, 2018

My (Tim J. Clark) notes:  Redevelopment Commission (RDC) meeting. June 14, 2018.

I attended the RDC meeting last night that was also attended by the commissioners, members of the Regional Sewer District (RSD), employees of the health department and the Republican Party / Maple Leaf Building committee member Robyn Bowman.  Another 6 -8 members of the public also attended.

I do not recall f the meeting was taped. There was no written agenda and I do not recall that the minutes from the last meeting were approved.   The RDC has lacked the appointment of a Secretary (responsible for the minutes) and the newly appointed member who is to serve as the Secretary was not present at the meeting.

Debt and Taxes

Jim Kemp (President of the RDC) led off for about 15 minutes on his background, vision, and history with the RDC.  He reinforced the trends on debt and taxes and projected loss of population that I provided to the commissioners and council on June 4, 2018.  June 4 DLZ Commissioner and Council Joint Meeting

The county’s tax policy was discussed briefly.  The intent for relatively low property taxes was to allow people who inherited land to be able to keep it.  It was also mentioned that the high-income tax is a deterrent to attracting new residents.

Housing

Tourist homes were identified as a problem because they reduce available housing.  However, owners do pay at least twice the rate in property taxes that a permanent resident would pay.  The tourist rentals do allow people to afford a second home and the rents received pays the taxes. It was suggested that we may have even more tourist homes in the future given the expected upward trend in tourism.

On housing, Kemp identified that a realtor identified that the $90-110K price range is needed that would include 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1200 square feet. Commissioner Pittman reinforced the need for clusters of new homes such as  15 homes on 30 acres.  Audience members suggested apartments are an affordable option for people just starting out and/or do not want the expense associated with owning a home.

Infrastructure

A declining tax base set the context that reinforced the need to consider options for the county with the consensus being the need to attract more residents.  This led to a conversation on needed infrastructure including sewers and broadband.

Commissioner Diana Biddle also mentioned that they have submitted the application for the economic development strategic planning grant. I reinforced that the development of the plan requires public input to allow people the opportunity to identify what they want and do not want regarding economic development.

Economic Development – Tourism and Revitalization

Commissioner Dave Anderson stated how the government-owned Maple Leaf Music Venue and projected new hotels would have significant economic impacts on the county. I reinforced that the county is funded by income and property tax.  (Wages in the tourism-related industries are among the lowest of all industries in Indiana.) My article on the topic:  GUEST COLUMN: A study of tourism and economic sustainability

The RDC received support for their proposal that the Helmsburg – Bean Blossom corridor would be a  major focus for “revitalization” over the next 3 years.  It was reinforced how sewer service in Bean Blossom was critical for this development.

Fear of Change

Jim Kemp raised the issue on fear of change using a cowboys and Indians metaphor.  Those that were born here — the “Indians” feared the input from the “cowboys” – those who have moved here.  The impression is that people that have moved here are demanding change.   One of the audience members (not me) reinforced that just the opposite is the case. Those that have moved here love the natural beauty and rural lifestyle and do not want significant change – just incremental improvements that benefit all county citizens.

I identify examples of “incremental changes” at the following:  Incremental Improvement to the Status Quo?   What are the concerns??

Regarding the “Fear of Change”, the “real” fear may likely be the perceived loss of political power that allows a few people (along with adhoc project teams) to dominate decision-making in the county.  Ironically, when you give up power, you gain more which is also frightening for people.

The perceived loss of power may explain the historical and cultural resistance to any kind of strategic and comprehensive planning.  These plans require input from citizens to identify what they want and do not want in terms of economic and community development. These plans become “our” plans as opposed to “their” plans.

For example,  the “county” should have a county-wide wastewater treatment plan approved by the citizens and the Bean Blossom Sewer Plan would then be developed to align with the county plan.

The current approach for the ad-hoc projects often have effects  (unintended consequences) in other areas of the county that lead to a whack-a-mole approach to address issues that could have been prevented.

RSB – Sewer Project – KEY CONCERN – Unintended Consequences?

On the sewer project, the justification of need  “appears” to be that the county has adopted a policy that given the age of your home, they can conclude that your septic system has outlived its useful life.  Useful life can be estimated at 25 years.   “IF”  this is confirmed, this “policy” can have county-wide effects.  Can everyone else (6-7000 residences) who on paper, have an outdated system, be required to hook on to a system if they are near a sewer line?   What’s the plan for the next area for a new wastewater treatment plant? Is there one? If not, why not?   Have past community conversations identified that people do not want sewers?

My letter to the editor that raises the issues and reinforced the need for comprehensive planning.  ” Letter: Limit proposed septic ordinance’s scope”

Regarding the RSB request for the $270K to support “their” presentation of “their” sewer plan, concern was expressed about the reaction from “some members” of the public to the Sewer Plan at next weeks meetings.  Options discussed ranged from limiting any discussion to limiting input from just those who live in the area to be served. I think they settled on following the approach used for the discussion on the Septic Ordinance, e.g., a two minute limit to anyone that wanted to speak and accepting written questions.

I pointed out that the RSD process for developing this project contributes to the citizens concerns and questions.  The RSD is taking a similar approach that the commissions and council took on the proposed Justice Center project.

Letter: Consider other ways for projects to proceed

Regarding my emphasis on the word “their” – citizens would  “own” a county-wide wastewater treatment plan, e.g, it would be “our” plan.  Citizens in the affected area to be served by the Bean Blossom treatment plant may not have been individually contacted (involved or consulted) on the Bean Blossom plan. Not everyone is aware or can attend public meetings and citizens expect their elected and appointed officials to look out for their best interests.  Why not send out postcard notifications to prospective customers regarding plans and meetings? Or have you?

Kemp also made a  statement regarding the “contempt” that “some” community members have towards the government.  No names – just vague and unsubstantiated allegations. This was curious.  An experienced leader would have a frame of reference that would welcome and embrace all points of view to ensure the best solutions for the county.   The “contempt” appears to be exhibited by elected and appointed officials towards the citizens they are serving.

Brown County Matters received some mention. This included unsubstantiated allegations of misinformation and the fact that it is now a “closed” group.  Fact is that I am not aware of anyone that has requested to join who has been denied.

And of course, the Brown County “N” word was used — N standing for those dreaded “naysayers” – anyone that identifies a concern, question or offers another perspective on the issue.   Really? Aren’t we better than this?

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