HANCOCK COUNTY — For the first time in many months, a vote on a $5 million bond to assist developers with the construction of a $63 million apartment complex in New Palestine was not on the agenda at the most recent council meeting. The reason — the developers asked the council for a 30-day continuance, which was granted by council president Clint Bledsoe.
“I don’t know what the 30-day continuance is for except for the fact we’ve been stymied on the vote for the last seven or eight council meetings,” Bledsoe said. “I don’t know if they’re going to look for a different option, I’m not even going to say because I have no idea.”
The topic of whether or not to offer the $5 million bond still came up as community members and council officials discussed the issue to try to figure out which way the project should go.
The council has been split on offering the bond monies to the developer, the Becovic Management Group of Fishers, to create the multi-million high end apartment complex on 27 acres near U.S. 52 and Mt. Comfort Road. Two members of the council are in favor of giving the $5 million bond, two are against and one has abstained.
During the first council meeting of the new year, council member Bill Niemier noted the council had received an email from the developer stating they planned to move forward with the project but warned, if they didn’t get assistance from the town, the quality of the project might suffer.
During the most recent council meeting, Jan. 18, council member Angie Fahrnow stated she’d spoken personally with the developer, Muhamed Becovic, president and CEO, and he assured her they wanted to move forward with plans to create the complex one way or another.
Fahrnow spoke with both Becovic and Harold Gibson from Hancock Regional Hospital — due to the fact HRH sold Becovic the land for the development — to get more information on the bond issue, she said. Fahrnow stated Becovic asked where she was on offering the bond monies for the project due to the vote continually not passing.
Fahrnow said she told Becovic she was under the impression, due to statements from others associated with the project, that if Becovic didn’t get the $5 million in bond monies they were going to walk away from building, but that’s not the message she got from Becovic.
“He said that’s not exactly what he meant,” Fahrnow said. “They are not going to lower the quality of the apartments.”
Fahrnow stated Gibson was in agreement, saying HRH officials wanted a top-notch project for the area which is designed to surround the New Palestine Wellness Center and would not be in favor of a lesser-quality complex.
“He still plans on building high-quality apartments,” Fahrnow said, regardless of the bond monies.
Niemier noted in an email sent to the council from the Becovic developers several weeks ago that they did discuss making major changes to the project including eliminating the single villas, green spaces and the lift station from the project if they didn’t get the bond monies.
“At least they haven’t pulled out completely,” Niemier said.
Fahrnow said she needs to have all the information before she makes the final vote on the bond and, with the 30-day delay, she’s hoping to get what information she needs. This comes after the council has discussed the project for over a year.
Council member Chris Lytle stated he’s interested in seeing what if any kind of changes are made in the plans over the next 30 days.
“I’m really high on this high quality and what we’re trying to put into the town,” Lytle said. “If it’s any kind of lesser quality, I would have a problem with that.”
Any changes in the proposal from the developer would have to go back to the town’s boards and commissions for approval and would have to meet town standards.
Fahrnow and Bledsoe have been against offering the $5 million bond, which is in a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) area, while Niemier and Lytle are in favor of the measure. Council vice president Brandee Bastin has abstained.
The council is slated to gather for a 7 p.m. meeting tonight at Town hall.