Carmel city councilors say their refusal to rubber stamp a state tax credit application paving the way for a $100 million redevelopment project downtown is the result of fiscal caution, not a rejection of low-income housing in the affluent suburb.
“City Council is concerned about the budget,” said Finance Committee Chairwoman Luci Snyder. “Things are a little tight.”
Developer Pedcor Cos. hasn’t asked for financial support for the so-called Midtown project on former industrial land near the Monon Trail, but councilors suspect that plea will come eventually. And that has them treading carefully now.
The city bailed out the Carmel Redevelopment Commission last year, taking on $184 million in debt when the agency had trouble making payments.
“I remain concerned about the state of TIF revenue versus debt service,” council President Rick Sharp said Monday after the panel sent the tax-credit request to the Land Use, Annexation and Economic Development Committee for review. “I would prefer that future development be driven by the market, not the ability to get financing.”
Councilors also were irked that they were asked to OK the application before they had been briefed on development plans. They also were concerned about a persistent rumor—dispelled by Pedcor CEO Bruce Cordingley on Wednesday—that the development would include affordable housing, something members said would do little to spur economic development in the area.
“Whether we like or don’t like low-income housing is not the issue,” said council member Eric Seidensticker. “The question is whether we put low-income housing there. We want to maximize the land in terms of the highest and best use. … It becomes a business decision.”
The Midtown area is between Carmel City Center and Main Street, where the city and private developers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars already. Future projects need to support what’s already there, councilors said.
Still, some observers interpreted the council's concerns as an indication that low-income renters are not welcome in Carmel. Seidensticker disputed that criticism, saying locally based Herman & Kittle Properties' Meridian Flats project has an affordable-housing project in the works for Old Meridian and Main streets.
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