By Lauren Zeugner
SYRACUSE — Terry Sweeney, project manager for Kosciusko Economic Development Corp., came to the Syracuse Redevelopment Commission’s regular meeting Tuesday night, Sept. 19, to discuss the findings of a recent housing study.
He noted there are strategic initiatives at the state level that could benefit Syracuse. Nate Scherer, president of the redevelopment commission, said some of those initiatives may require interlocal agreements. He explained the town straddles two regions for potential funding.
“We’re pretty much for growth. We’re kind of stuck,” said Commission member Jim Layne, noting the town is essentially landlocked.
Both Scherer and Sweeney pointed out in order for the town to grow, it has to find a way to expand its borders. There was a question how South Shore Village, Scherer’s project, will get water and sewer. He said it was possible sewer would be obtained from Turkey Creek Sewer District, but it doesn’t offer water.
Scherer noted the water utilities for the town of Syracuse is not at capacity yet. He also said from a development point of view, he understood why local farmers didn’t want to lose their farmland.
Scherer explained he and his business partner purchased the South Shore property with the hope of keeping the nine-hole golf course, however, at the time the cost of rehabilitating the property was more expensive than originally thought and housing is desperately needed.
The plan then turned to developing the property to provide necessary housing as well as high tech jobs that could provide a nice quality of life.
There was a question of whether tax increment finance money could be used for projects outside the TIF district. The answer is TIF benefits must be used within the boundaries of the TIF district.
One commissioner asked what Sweeney meant by a 1 1/2 month and six month housing supply. Sweeney explained he meant by how many houses were on the market. The optimal for a county like Kosciusko is about 70 homes for a month and a half and around 200 at the six month mark.
Scherer said when looking at the big picture what most people care about are good jobs and good housing. The South Shore Village project is looking to have 100 residential lots and 240 multi-family lots. “If we do everything right, we can have a higher quality of life,” Scherer said. “People will stay in the area longer.”
In order to do that the community has to have quality of life amenities and good schools to bring people to the community.
Scherer believes the town needs to grow in order to give local kids opportunities so they can stay in the community. Scherer expressed concern that his own children will eventually have to leave the area.
He also noted the lack of mid-level housing and the fact Milford Middle School was closed due to declining class size.
“The only way to stay sufficient is to grow,” said Sweeney.
Scherer passed around a few articles he picked up regarding what is needed for a town to grow and thrive. “We need to look at what the town will look like in 20 years.,” he said.
The discussion turned to extending utilities to those outside the town boundaries who are also not interested in being annexed into town. Scherer said he’s talked to representatives from other communities who have and have not extended utilities due to annexation. He stressed there is an economic impact by providing utilities, both in fees collected and through use of local businesses. Typically a community can charge 15% over the rate to outside entities.
David Rosenberg asked how the tech park north of town was annexed. It was explained there is a state law that allows annexation of property that is not abutting town property, but it is restricted to industrial parks.
The discussion concluded with the commission recommending the town council undertake a study on the possibilities of town expansion.
The commission also reviewed the idea of putting charging stations for electric vehicles on the last and smallest lot remaining in the technology park. According to a review by the Michiana Area Council of Governments, the lot would not be conducive to such a use and does not qualify for a grant to assist in putting a charging station at the technology park.