Last night the Indianapolis City-County Council heard a zoning matter regarding the city's plan to redevelop the block located at 450 E. Market St. The developer Tadd Miller, who was has partnered with politically-connected Kosene & Kosene on other deals, is solely responsible for the $65 million plan to redevelop the old Bank One operations center into a mixed use apartment/retail complex. The deal will involve an investment of $20 million of taxpayer funds in Miller's project.
As Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana notes, the City broke a law requiring that it to pay "fair market value" when it agreed to pay much more than that, $18.5 million, to purchase a parking garage next to Tadd Miller's planned project. Instead the City took a highly unusual approach - having an appraisal done based on "future value."
Last night I had the opportunity to speak in front of the Council on the zoning issue related to the project. I told the Council that the administration was making an end run around state law that mandates that the administration obtain the council's approval. The zoning vote was the council's only "bite at the apple" when it came to the administrations' politically-connected redevelopment deal, a deal that will cost taxpayers millions.
Here's my legal explanation. The administration is proceeding with the Tadd Miller deal under IC 6-1.1-12.1 which governs tax deductions for economic revitalization. That chapter, which applies to all cities, deals with tax breaks a city can give within an area that has been designated by the Metropolitan Development Commission. Those statutes require that MDC come up with a plan, that there be a public hearing and then final approval by the MDC after the public hearing. This part of the code does not require the tax deduction or abatement plan have council approval.
Certainly, a tax break, a convoluted tax abatement plan of sorts, is part of the plan for the block that includes 450 E. Market Street. But the developer and the city both readily admit that the plan is much more than a simple tax break. Rather it is a comprehensive redevelopment plan. While the tax break part of the plan could proceed under IC 6-1.1-12.1 without council approval, Indiana law requires that the City's plan to redevelop the city block proceed under IC 36-7-15.1 which chapter is appropriately titled "Redevelopment of Areas in Marion County Needing Redevelopment." IC 36-7-15.1-10 in that chapter specifically requires council approval of the Tadd Miller redevelopment plan.
It is a shame that this administration thought it necessary to cut out the council of its oversight role over a redevelopment project that will cost taxpayers millions. Republicans and Democrats on the council, as well as taxpayers, should be outraged by the Ballard's administration's decision to blatantly violate Indiana law.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse but maybe just plain ignorance is all they need -sarcasm
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