McCORDSVILLE – Larry Longman remembers looking out into the caucus crowd when he first sought a McCordsville Town Council seat not long after moving to town in late 2002.
“I see some denim overalls,” he recalled, “some John Deere hats, some seed company hats, and I got up there and I said, ‘Listen, I’m a developer, I’m about growth. We cannot deny that we’re the next edge as development comes on up Broadway, up (Ind.) 67. Let’s embrace it and make it what we want.’”
Longman chuckled as he recounted the rest of the story.
“Let the votes reflect that no one wanted development,” he said. “I lost that election. But I did not compromise my morals. This is what I’m about. And I’ve been the same, very consistent, since the point in time where I lost my first election.”
He tried again in 2011, won and has remained on the council ever since. Now the Republican is vying for another term representing District 3 on McCordsville’s north side and maintaining the message of development he started out with. He faces John Price in the upcoming primary election.
“That is what motivates me,” Longman said. “I think we can be smart about what we want. There’s a lot of things that come – and we’re not typically denying people opportunities – but we are getting to the point where we actually can be a little bit more selective about what we want to gain from the developments and get for the town.”
McCordsville changed much between Longman’s first loss in the early 2000s and victory in 2011, and so did voters’ views on growth, he said. He pointed to developments like new neighborhoods, Hancock Health’s wellness center, Meijer and retail on Broadway.
“I think people started realizing that this was coming regardless of what their attitudes may have been about it,” he said.
Longman said there will always be those who don’t want development for McCordsville.
“They want it to be a bedroom community forever, but the problem is always the offsetting tax bases,” he said. “You will not get quality-of-life amenities if you do not have businesses in your town. And especially the industrial developments. They bring a lot of tax for very little needed in return, and we allocate their tax dollars for better purposes for our residents.”
McCordsville has drawn several industrial developments in recent years to its south side, including Southwark Metal Manufacturing and speculative buildings designed for logistics purposes. While industrial developments often receive tax abatements, a common misconception is that all taxes are abated, Longman said.
“They pay 50% of their taxes in 10 years and then after that they pay 100,” he said. “Yes, it’s a give-and-take relationship to get the business off the ground, but it’s 50% over a 10-year term. It’s not nothing. They just ease into it so to speak. That’s not well understood.”
Longman works for a developer and general contractor, which he said allows him to bring an expertise to the council in matters like entitlements, due diligence issues, utilities and zoning.
“A lot of the things that we discuss when it comes specifically to developments is what I do all day long, so I think that’s a good skill to supplement the town with,” he said.
When he looks back on town council retreats over the past several years, he recalled how most are dominated by discussions on alleviating traffic jams at Mt. Comfort Road and Broadway when a train is traveling on the nearby railroad tracks. Officials have considered taking Mt. Comfort Road over and under the tracks, as well as improving the intersection at grade to resolve the issue.
“That would be one of the overlying unresolved issues that keeps me scratching my head,” Longman said. “The budgetary or the monetary contribution is going to exceed what the town can contribute forevermore in my opinion. I don’t think we even have enough development where we can finance something like that. It can’t get done without some type of a state- or federal-level appropriation.”
During Longman’s time on the council, McCordsville kicked off its town center project planned to consist of residential, commercial, civic and outdoor spaces between Mt. Comfort Road, Broadway and CR 750N.
“I’d love to continue supporting what we want to accomplish there,” he said. “Part of that vision was mine for as far as what we wanted to do with a blank canvas down there many, many years ago. I didn’t master plan it by any means, but I think the location was part of what we thought was strategic to see the growth of the town. I’d like to stay on to continue to shape what that becomes.”