By Lasca Randels
LEESBURG — Leesburg Town Council expressed interest in the possibility of working with the Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation at their meeting Monday, Sept. 13.
KEDCo representative Greg Fitzloff attended Monday’s meeting to speak about the organization’s housing initiative.
“About three years ago, we started hearing a lot from area employers in terms of having more trouble finding employees and retaining employees,” Fitzloff said. “One of the issues that seemed to come up in terms of retaining employees was the lack of housing throughout the county.”
Fitzloff said KEDCo performed surveys and a market study, which showed a significant lack of housing in the county.
The Zimmerman market study identified a need for approximately 2,000 new housing units in the county by 2025.
“That’s a pretty aggressive number in terms of adding to the existing stock,” Fitzloff said.
Regarding the housing initiative, Fitzloff said KEDCo or one of their affiliate entities will go out and identify property in the community that has the potential for housing development.
“Generally we are looking at something probably a minimum of 10 and probably in most smaller communities no more than 20 acres,” Fitzloff said. “We’re talking about 25 to probably an upper level of 50 homes in that development. We see if we can identify if there’s that property available.”
Leesburg Town Council President Tom Moore explained that the town is landlocked, which prevents new housing development.
“I have been told in each and every community by somebody ‘it’s not going to work, we’re landlocked, there just isn’t any land available,’” Fitzloff said.
According to Fitzloff, KEDCo has been able to find land that was overlooked or, in some cases, have spoken with property owners who previously were unwilling to sell but due to changing circumstances are now more open to the possibility.
“We are willing to go out and pursue those property owners,” Fitzloff said.
He said KEDCo is not asking for a specific commitment from the town council at this time because there’s nothing to commit to; however, KEDCo wants to know if the town is interested in being part of the process.
“Is that a road you want to go down?” Fitzloff asked. “It doesn’t do us any good to go out and negotiate with a landowner and spend six months negotiating and finally come up with a price that makes sense and then turn around and have the town say were not interested. It serves no real purpose.”
“I definitely have an interest, on behalf of the town, of maybe having further conversations with you or someone else from your agency,” Moore said. “My colleagues and I would also have to have time to have some ‘what if’ conversations.”
Fitzloff said the recommendation for the first step in each town is to set up a project review committee, which would consist of a town council member, a non-council community member and a KEDCo representative.
“Our job is to do what’s good for the town and if it looks like it’s good for the town, if this is something that would fall under that criteria, we’d be interested. I think you’ve got to keep your options open,” Town Council member Doug Jones said.
Moore asked for Fitzloff’s contact information and said the town council would be in touch with him.
In another matter, a proposed traffic control agreement between Leesburg and Claypool continues to be on hold at this time.
“We have an insurance debacle right now that we’re trying to work through,” Jones said.
The contract stems from speeding issues the Town of Leesburg has been experiencing for some time. Leesburg has no police department.
Under the current proposal, Claypool Police would provide about 384 hours of patrol services for Leesburg each year at an annual cost of around $5,000.
Jones will be contacting Leesburg’s insurance provider to see what options are available. An update will be provided at next month’s meeting.
Jones also brought up a letter the town received on Sept. 3 from the Indiana Department of Transportation regarding non-compliance issues.
“We don’t have proper documentation,” Jones said.
He explained that in 2012, new procedural paperwork regarding the American Disability Act came into play.
“We’ve moved forward with ADA. We’ve built this building to be ADA compliant. We’ve put the maps down for ADA compliancy in our new curbs and gutters,” Jones said. “We’ve been moving forward with that, so in a sense, we’re following the guidelines that the state asked us to follow, but we don’t have documentation that says such.”
Jones spoke with Caitlin Stevens at Michiana Area Council of Governments (MACOG) and with Leesburg attorney Vern Landis about the matter. Representatives from MACOG will be in Leesburg Sept. 23 to do a PACER renewal on the town streets as part of the Community Crossings program, so Jones plans to meet with them at that time. The ADA paperwork compliance matter will be discussed again next month.
In another matter, town council reviewed the 2022 budget.
The proposed budget total is $267,114, with $4,768 in the rainy day fund; $138,000 in the general fund; $8,000 in the local road and street fund; $113,346 in the motor vehicle highway fund; and $3,000 in the cumulative capital improvement fund.
The budget is scheduled to be adopted at the next council meeting, Oct. 11.
As always, town officials would like residents to be reminded of the following items: No parking on any street between 3-5 a.m. (every day); no burning anything anytime; please be mindful of what you flush, and yard waste is to be placed in town-provided trash totes.
In other news:
- Trick-or-Treat will be held in Leesburg between 6-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30.
- The next regular meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Oct. 11.