Council candidates focus on McCordsville’s growth


McCORDSVILLE — First-term incumbent Councilman Larry Longman faces a Republican primary challenge from Dan Vail for the McCordsville Town Council District 3 seat.

The district covers the area between county roads 600W and 700W, from County Road 1000N south to Broadway Street.

Longman, 42, married with two daughters ages 11 and 13, said he wants to remain in local government because he enjoys it.

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Beyond that, “McCordsville is just gearing up for great things,” said Longman, whose day job is senior vice president of preconstruction at Indianapolis-based Lauth Group Inc.

Those great things center on economic development, Longman said, comprised of the right mix of commercial and residential growth that will see the town prosper while taxes for residents remain in check.

Longman said he won the election in 2012 on the same message he used during an unsuccessful campaign for council about a decade ago, when he said he was a newcomer to town: “Let’s go ahead and grow.”

Longman’s challenger has lived in McCordsville all his life. Vail farms land where his family has lived since 1850.

“Farming gives you that feeling of stewardship,” Vail said. “I have a passion for this area and want to see the best outcome for it.”

Like Longman, Vail, 57, who has two grown children, also made an unsuccessful bid for office. It was four years ago when all the council seats were at-large. Vail was the self-described “odd man out” in four-way race for three seats.

This is not to say Vail, who lives on and farms the land his family has owned since 1850, lacks experience in local government affairs. He served on the Hancock Area Plan Commission from 1990-2005. And he has served on the McCordsville Plan Commission since 2011.

If successful in his council bid, Vail said he hopes to work to ensure the town remains a nice place to live.

“People should be happy where they live and proud of their community,” Vail said.

Vail said he’s a proponent of developing parks and festivals and establishing a library.

While he said he wants to preserve the small-town feel of McCordsville, he also acknowledges the town will grow.

“I don’t think you can slow it down; it’s just managing it,” Vail said.

Longman, who served on the town’s redevelopment commission from 2003-07 and board of zoning appeals from 2010-12, said it’s impossible to slow growth, but you also can’t speed it up.

“I think you have to set it up and enable it to grow,” he said. “The free market dictates when it will occur.”

Still, there are barriers to development, and Longman said the town should work to remove those barriers, such as finalizing the plans for the County Road 600W realignment project.

He said he has encouraged his fellow town council members to “continue to push the road forward because it’s really hampering our ability to market the town.”

He’s also in favor of annexation as a mechanism to grow the town and continue to provide the services residents expect. He said state property tax caps triggered recent annexation efforts.

“It’s our job to continue to foster growth in town. … In some ways you’re forced to do it geographically,” he said.

Vail said annexations are good so long as the property owners in the unincorporated area agree with it.

“I think if a town wants to annex an area, they should have their proof to the benefits and services of the annexation to the homeowners before they start that process,” he said.

Residents shouldn’t have to wonder if their tax dollars are being watched closely and used wisely, Vail said, citing what would be another of his priorities if elected.

He said he would strive to maintain a competitive bidding process to get the lowest costs for town purchases, and he would use sparingly tax abatement — which give businesses tax breaks in exchange for commitments of such things as the addition of local facilities and jobs.

It goes back to building a community that people can have pride in, he said, and if growth occurs but the taxes don’t come in, there’s growth without adding to the quality of life.

Longman said development, which the town can promote through programs such as economic development areas and tax abatement, can help fund the amenities that make the town a great place to live.

He, too, wants parks and trails, and to develop a town center area with which local residents can identify.

“We’re trying to create our own sense of place, create our own downtown,” he said, as well as an expanded trail system that business can subsidize. “We’re trying to create a solution.”