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Bartholomew County Commissioners have given up on creating a countywide redevelopment commission, citing the concerns of residents and fellow elected officials.
The commissioners wanted the redevelopment commission as a tool to lure new business, if necessary, Commissioners President Carl Lienhoop said.
A redevelopment commission would allow the county to create tax-increment financing districts to help pay for growth in targeted areas — which many members of the County Council and the county auditor opposed. But county residents said they were concerned about having another agency with eminent domain, the power to force property owners to sell their land.
Lienhoop said Monday that the commissioners have heard the negative response and will back off on the proposal.
“We have not had a single constituent speak favorably,” Lienhoop said.
At Monday’s commissioners meeting, county resident James Wheatley said that he was opposed to the idea of eminent domain, which a redevelopment commission would be able to exercise. At the October County Council meeting, Lisa Deaton, another county resident, expressed similar concerns.
Wheatley said eminent domain is an erosion of property rights and he did not believe it was right for a commission to force a family to give up its property for a developer.
“It scares people,” Wheatley said.
Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said government bodies such as the commissioners already have the power of eminent domain, which they largely choose not to exercise.
Last month, commissioners suggested to the County Council that they would push for a redevelopment commission if both bodies were united in wanting one. But four members, a majority of the council, said they were opposed. County Auditor Barb Hackman also is opposed because of the complications it brings to property taxes.
“We can’t get community support, we can’t get council support, and frankly we are tired of fighting,” Lienhoop said.
Lienhoop said the commissioners have agreed not to press forward with the redevelopment commission. The only tool left for economic development outside the Columbus city limits would be tax abatements approved by the County Council, he said.
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