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Abatement approved for senior complex

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NEW PALESTINE — By a vote of 2-1, the three members of the New Palestine Town Council this week approved a five-year tax abatement for a $15 million complex of assisted-living units and cottages for senior citizens just west of town.

The abatement will result in an estimated property tax savings of $2.08 million for Justus Home Builders, which said the new center will employ 32 people with a net annual payroll of $1.3 million.

The project, called Woodland Terrace of New Palestine, will be built at Sugar Creek Commons at 5800 W. U.S. 52.

The final deal on abatement differs slightly from the original proposal, which called for a 10-year phase-in of property taxes and a total savings of $2.14 million for the developer.

But council member Clint Bledsoe, who said he was in favor of the project and favored some type of abatement, said the five-year abatement isn’t as good a deal for the town as it seems.

“I think this five-year abatement according to these percentages is worse than the standard 10-year abatement,” Bledsoe said, noting that Justus will pay no more than 10 percent of a normal annual property tax bill for the life of the abatement. “I think it is a disservice to the town of New Palestine, and I won’t do it.”

Town manager Dave Book disagreed. He said the town would benefit greatly and immediately from the deal.

“Justus will be paying taxes on the construction phases of the building, and the abatements won’t start until they get final approval to move in,” Book said. “So, there will be a year, year-and-a-half where they will (pay) taxes.”

Book also pointed out that Justus will pay the town an estimated $280,841 for permits and inspections, along with sewer hook-up fees. Monthly sewer fees after that will be as much as $400 a month, he added.

After the vote – council members Jan Jarson and Larry Jonas cast the majority votes – Justus owner Walter Justus expressed his gratitude to the council.

“I just want to thank you for your support,” Justus said. “We don’t take this lightly. We are in the senior-living business and all that goes with it, and we will do a lot of partnering with the community.”

Skip Kuker, director of the Hancock Economic Development Council, said he was glad to see the town make a decision that will help the county.

“People will come in and buy gas and they might stop in Greenfield on the way out here,” Kuker said. “It is a much bigger picture than this one development.”

The plans call for a senior age-in-place campus consisting of a total of 125 units.

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