NAPPANEE — Things got a little tense at times during Monday’s Nappanee City Council meeting because of discussion and questions on agenda items from those in attendance who are currently running for office.
Attendees included mayoral candidate hopeful Patricia Wyant; Kim Ingle, who is running to get the GOP nomination for the 2nd District council seat; and Sheila Losee, who would like to get the GOP nod as well for the council at-large seat.
Mayor Larry Thompson became somewhat terse with Wyant after she her questions reflected some rumors going around on social media.
One of those was the proposed expansion of the city’s consolidated tax increment finance district, which in the end the council approved.
City Council attorney Craig Buche explained that the Nappanee Redevelopment Commission wants to expand the TIF district east to the airport, north to the high school and west on Lincoln Street.
He said they were now looking for the council to approve the enlargement of the consolidated TIF district, approve the written order by the Plan Commission and agree that the enlargement of the TIF District constitutes economic development.
Buche explained the “most significant” part of the expansion was the area east to the airport where the city is extending sewer and water utilities.
“The city has been limited in areas for commercial and industrial growth,” Buche pointed out and extending utilities to this area will aid in attracting businesses. He also said the potential for a water tower is there and some possible rail improvements on the south side of U.S. 6.
Going north, the TIF would include the soccer complex by adding lights, restrooms, concession, soccer fields and the area out by OSMC. The third small segment of expansion would include the west side where the former Fred’s Flowers used to be and the possible expansion of Lincoln Street. Also mentioned in the plan is the possibility of adding a traffic signal if needed.
‘Street to nowhere’
Wyant asked what the plans for Lincoln Street were.
Mayor Larry Thompson said, “It’s a street to nowhere,” referring to comments apparently made in social media.
Wyant said she’d heard that and Thompson retorted, “The street to nowhere was Lincoln Street before Thomas Mast bought Coppes and the city improved it out east. The last thing I want is for Lincoln Street to be a street to nowhere. I’m not that stupid.”
The mayor explained the city purchased the former Fred’s Flowers property after it had fallen into disrepair and then an adjacent property owner came to the city offering his property for sale.
“The idea is if the city wants to extend Lincoln Street west — (people) will be able to take it east all the way to Rite Choice,” he said.
In the process the city cleared out what had become a blighted property. “The city did the right thing getting this all cleared up and with the projected truck traffic in the future our people and our Amish will know where the road is and for them it will be free and easy,” Thompson said said.
Wyant then asked about how the school fit into the city’s plan on the north side.
Thompson said that was another rumor being perpetuated on social media that the city was building the high school a soccer complex. He told Wyant the high school does not share in the city’s TIF and that the city bought land for the soccer complex about 12 to 15 years ago.
Instead, he said, several organizations have been in discussions about ways that would benefit all.
Wyant said, “Thank you for explaining and helping me connect the dots. I didn’t understand and I was just getting bits and pieces at meetings.”
She went on to say that she thought the consolidated TIF was “a brilliant idea” and Thompson said, “I’m glad you agree. It was my idea.”
Thompson said none of this was written in stone. It was all in the talking stages, but city officials were keeping options open. The mayor encouraged anyone with questions to seek him out for answers.
‘North side development’
Ingle had several questions about the expansion of the north side and wanted to know if there was a proposed development for that area.
Thompson reminded her that city officials still wanted to be careful about what went in across from the high school and about additional curb cuts on Ind. 19 and said, “Nothing has been brought to us yet. We’ve heard there a few people kicking tires.”
The council approved the recommended proposed expansion, which would go back to the redevelopment commission and they would advertise the expansion and notify property owners.
Kitson wanted to point out that items listed in the expansion plans all state “may be included” and that is how the redevelopment commission has to operate. They have to list possible plans but it doesn’t necessarily mean everything listed will be done.
Another issue that caused passions to rise a little at Monday’s Nappanee City Council meeting was the issue of handicapped spaces in downtown area.
Sheila Losee, owner of His, Hers and More Salon on East Market Street and a candidate for the GOP nomination for the city council at large seat, asked the council for more handicapped parking spaces.
City officials reviewed the request and told her Monday night that another handicapped space will be added on the west side of the street by the post office and East Market Street.
Street Superintendent Brent Warren told Losee with this additional space there will be 17 handicapped spaces in the downtown area out of a total of 260 to 270 spaces.
Thompson said spaces will be repainted and missing signage will be corrected.