Bill would give Beech Grove, Lawrence, Southport and Speedway more say in development

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A local state lawmaker wants to give Marion County’s independent cities and towns a chance to weigh in on property tax incentives in their areas prior to big votes.

Sen. R. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, is pushing a bill that would require the Metropolitan Development Commission to notify the municipalities of “excluded cities” Beech Grove, Lawrence, Southport and Speedway in writing before it considers new tax abatements or other incentives for development projects in each excluded city.

The move, he said, is meant to ensure those areas are properly informed of incentive deals and that officials there have a chance to evaluate whether it’s fiscally responsible for them to support such developments.

Right now, Young said, “they don’t have a vote, they don’t have a voice.”

The city often utilizes tax abatements to incentivize development projects throughout the county, but it is not required to consult with an excluded city, even if a project is within its bounds, prior to taking a vote.

Young said ensuring that the commission has an understanding of an excluded area’s views of a project will go a long way when it comes to the considerations of new incentive deals.

“They will have a chance to see what’s going on—see how it affects them,” he said. “Now, they will have the opportunity to make a formal report to the commission and make a presentation as to verify whether this is a good or bad idea and their reasons for or against the proposal.”

As originally written, Senate Bill 164 required the MDC to give a representative of an excluded city voting power in instances where the commission is considering tax abatements for redevelopment and rehabilitation projects in that area.

But Young on Thursday presented an amendment removing the voting language, following extensive discussions with city of Indianapolis officials and those from the excluded cities. The bill passed the Indiana Senate’s Local Government Committee 9-0 on Thursday. Young also told IBJ that tax increment financing districts would be part of the bill, but the legislation is limited to tax abatements or incentives.

Currently, the Metropolitan Development Commission—which operates under the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development—consist of nine members, with five appointed by the Indianapolis mayor and four by City-County Council. The council, which is composed of 25 councilors (including one from each excluded city) has final say on economic development and taxing matters. 

While the bill technically applies statewide, only Indianapolis would be affected because it is the sole incorporated city-county in the state.

Scarlett Andrews, director of the Department of Metropolitan Development, said in a written statement that she is appreciative of the effort to maintain a good relationship between the city and the excluded cities, but did not indicate whether the city is outright supportive of the bill.

“The City of Indianapolis and the Metropolitan Development Commission have a history of working alongside excluded cities and town officials to ensure we are able to attain and attract good-paying jobs in Marion County,” she said. “We understand the General Assembly’s desire to formalize that relationship and appreciate their continued collaboration as we work together to drive economic progress across the region.”

Clarifications: Sen. R. Michael Young initially told IBJ that tax increment financing districts would be part of his bill, but the legislation is limited to tax abatements and incentives. References to TIFs have been removed from this story. Additionally, an earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to excluded cities as unincorporated.

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8 thoughts on “Bill would give Beech Grove, Lawrence, Southport and Speedway more say in development

  1. Perhaps it should be noted that registered voters of an “Excluded City,” as Beech Grove, Lawrence, Speedway, and Southport are called in state law, may vote not only for their City-County Councillor, but also for the Mayor of Indianapolis in his/her capacity as county executive. Thus, the residents of the Excluded Cities are directly represented by the Mayor (and by extension his/her appointees) under the Unigov statutes.

    1. Chris this is a great point and one that should not be overlooked. Indianapolis is looked at as a model city in regards to the streamlined legislative process between city/county. People calling for more legislative process being applied to real estate development projects should pay a visit to St. Louis where the chaotic medly of silo’d city, county, town governments create so much conflicting process, that everyone loses and projects do not happen. Despite anyone’s opinions towards Mayor’s office, council, or DMD, the solution to better development is not to add more government process.

    2. The point is to manufacture ways to give Republicans a voice in what happens in Marion County since the Marion County GOP has yet to figure out a way to win elections.

  2. Terminology: there are no “unincorporated areas” in Marion County. Everything is either Indianapolis, Lawrence, Beech Grove, Speedway, or Southport. The last four are collectively called “the excluded cities”.

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  4. In Lawrence at least, the redundant city government is costly for the residents, has extra paperwork and policies, with very little benefit. Their water, trash service and building permits are prime examples. The whole Lawrence bureaucracy should gradually be unwound and turned over to Indianapolis Unigov, would be cost saving for everyone with no loss to residents, and render this bill moot. There is no point in their local governance except fiefdom. The areas have already established their identities, which would remain (think Broad Ripple).