Regional Transportation Planning
Northwest Indiana Brownfield Redevelopment Project
Sustainable Development and the Quality of Life Council
NIRPC Environmental Management Policy Committee
Northwest Indiana Forum, Inc.
Planning and Zoning
There are a number structures which can be utilized to assist with economic development on a local level. Several are outlined below.
Transportation policy in Indiana is established at both the state and regional level. The Indiana Department of Transportation is responsible for statewide planning and policy and for management of federal transportation funds. Because Northwest Indiana is an urban area with a population of over 50,000, a metropolitan planning organization is responsible for transportation planning. The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission was created in 1965 to bring multi-county planning to Northwest Indiana. Functions of NIRPC include assistance with transportation planning and development in Northwest Indiana.81
The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission has adopted a regional transportation plan that proposes a "system of roads, transit services, ports and freight terminals that will facilitate the existing and future degree of mobility required by individuals, businesses and organizations of northwest Indiana and others who use the system."82 The plan was prepared by NIRPC staff with direction from the Regional Transportation Committee and the Transportation Policy Committee in accordance with state and federal guidelines. The plan was developed on a regional basis to account for diverse patterns of travel within the region. Public involvement in the preparation of the plan was included through NIRPC's Public Participation Plan for Northwest Indiana. The plan has been integrated with land use patterns and addresses multimodal transportation issues associated with varying land uses and economic needs of the region.
Participants in the Northwest Indiana Brownfield Redevelopment Project include East Chicago, Gary, and Hammond, as well as environmental and community organizations, lending institutions, realtors, industry, labor, and public and private agencies. The Project has three goals: (1) to identify and remove threats to the health and safety of residents from environmental degradation on brownfield sites; (2) to restore brownfields to productive use by appropriate cleanup; and, (3) to create sustainable economic opportunity with new jobs consistent with environmental protection. At least one brownfield in each of the three cities would be selected to serve as a pilot project. Each of the sites would be restored to an appropriate level so as to be available for redevelopment and reuse.83
The Project submitted a grant application to the Environmental Protection Agency in April 1995 to promote economic development through the redevelopment of brownfields. The application was not funded but was resubmitted in November 1995, together with a similar application for redevelopment funding through the EPA's Common Sense Initiative. The CSI grant application was approved for $200,000 contingent upon available funding for fiscal year 1996. In addition, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management approved $200,000 as a match to the EPA funding. CSI funding limits eligible sites to those impacted by the iron and steel industries.84
The site chosen for the pilot project in Hammond was the publicly owned West Point Industrial Park. The 74-acre site, formerly used as a disposal site for slag from area steel mills, is located at the southeast corner of Columbia Avenue and Gostlin Street. The selection process involved participation by city residents, and a primary concern was the potential for creating new employment. A publicly owned site was selected because it was thought greater development control would be afforded.85
The site chosen in East Chicago was the former American Steel Foundries property, a 20-acre grassy area located at 3761 Canal Street. The property had been used for manufacturing, assembly, and distribution of steel products. East Chicago City Planner, Russ Taylor said one expected benefit of the pilot project was "a better understanding of the industry. Why doesn't industry want to develop these properties? In most cases, industries just don't understand what brownfields are." According to Taylor, one fact unique to the American Steel Foundries site was the high value placed on developing private properties rather than publicly-owed ones.86
Ted Smith, who is coordinating the Project among federal, state, and local participants, said they are already looking beyond the pilot properties. "We want the cities to be positioned, so when opportunities arise, they can take advantage of them." An inventory of brownfield sites, which might become available for redevelopment, is being assembled in Gary.87
In 1997 local governments, business leaders, social service providers, environmental advocates, and several academic institutions in the Northwest Indiana metropolitan region formed the Quality of Life Council. The Council stems from a series of five round table meetings in 1996 on the subject of sustainable development which were sponsored by Indiana University Northwest. The public and private partnership formalized as the Quality of Life Council (QLC) now promotes comprehensive sustainable development in Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties.88
Maria Hibbs, member of the QLC Executive Board and the Director of Public Affairs at Inland Steel explained "it was discovered through the round tables that regional solutions are needed for metropolitan development, and to effectively deal with effects of environmental degradation, poverty, and political fragmentation in our region." She said it was generally agreed the work begun during the round tables needed to continue.
To carry out its mission, the Council will foster sustainable development through: (1) building and maintaining a healthy environment through region-wide programs improving air quality, water quality, pollution prevention, and the disposal, reduction, and elimination of solid waste and toxic waste. (2) Conserving land resource by promoting controlled growth, regional land use policies, greenways, and mass public transportation. (3) Developing and maintaining economic health through brownfield redevelopment, eco-industrial park development, and developing or attracting environmentally sound and globally competitive business and industry. (4) Serving a diverse and changing population by encouraging policies to reduce urban core poverty, promote welfare to work, encourage affordable housing, and advance crime prevention and community policing. (5) Managing the region by promoting consensus on clear policies and agreements to pursue mandated changes to meet established regional goals.
Two task forces have been formed by the Council to follow-up on recommendations supporting development of a regional transportation authority and supplementing regional brownfield activities. The topics being addressed by the Council surfaced during the round table process. Other challenges impacting the quality of life were also identified. As the QLC looks at new issues, new task forces will be formed. Recommendations can then be passed on to appropriate levels of government.
Membership of the Council consists of representatives from six categories: (1) business and labor; (2) community and social services; (3) elected officials; (4) environmental advocates; (5) universities and colleges; and (6) at-large members. The Council's executive board includes two representatives of each of the membership categories. Chairmanship of the Council rotates among six academic institutions: Calumet College, Indiana University Northwest, Ivy Tech State College, Purdue North Central, Purdue University Calumet, and Valparaiso University. The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) is the fiscal agent of the Council and Barbara Waxman of NIRPC, the Council's director.
The Council is seeking funds from the US EPA Sustainable Development Challenge Grant Program for three interrelated projects: (1) a comprehensive metropolitan area sustainable development plan; (2) creation of quality of life indicators; and (3) a technical plan for the elimination of sprawl and uncontrolled land use in Northwest Indiana.
Quality of Life Council meetings are held quarterly at the Indiana University Northwest Conference Center. Questions about the QLC can be directed to Barbara Waxman.
The NIRPC Environmental Management Policy Committee, as set forth in its mission statement, "recognizes the value and interdependence of northwest Indiana's natural resources and economic strengths and encourages the use of those resources to meet current needs while ensuring that adequate resources are available for future generations." The goals of the committee are as follows:
Beginning in 1997, the Committee turned its focus to the issue of air quality. Through grants from the Indiana Department of Commerce and the Moriah Fund, the Committee produced an educational video titled, "What's Up With Our Air." NIRPC has received a three year grant from state and federal transportation agencies to continue efforts toward public education on air quality. Recently, the IDEM has asked the Committee to serve as its regional air quality steering committee to help the agency implement new air quality initiatives.89
In addition, the committee is developing an inventory of all environmental organizations and activities currently underway in Northwest Indiana. The inventory is scheduled to be available in the summer of 1998. The committee is also collaborating with the three county solid waste management districts to promote the purchase of recycled content paper products by local units of government.
A nongovernmental organization which is a major participant in the economic development of Northwest Indiana is the Northwest Indiana Forum. The Forum seeks to promote sustainable development in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton, Jasper, Starke, and Pulaski Counties, recognizing that sustainable development is interdependent upon the total well-being of the community. The Forum today supports initiative designed to improve the quality of life, education, health care, government, and the regional infrastructure.90
There are five active convention and visitor bureaus which serve the Lake Michigan watershed in Indiana. These are the Lake County Convention and Visitor Bureau, the LaPorte County Convention and Visitor Bureau, the Porter County Convention and Visitor Bureau, the South Bend-Mishawaka Convention and Visitor Bureau, and the Elkhart County Convention and Visitor Bureau.91 Typically, local tourism is promoted through pamphlets, magazines, or other media such as press releases and radio announcements. The use of 800 numbers is also common, and local bureaus work cooperatively with federal and state officials, as well as with local festivals and similar activities.92 The Times Online maintains a homepage on the Internet for the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau.93
The Indiana North Coast Tourism Council was created to market the three coastal counties in a cooperative venture. By pooling marketing efforts, the Council sought to help the counties reduce costs when participating in the same events. The Council is no longer active, however, and there is no regional board which is focused exclusively upon Lake, LaPorte, and Porter Counties.94
The I-80/90 Corridor Commission was established to help move motorists off the Toll Road and into the neighboring communities. Ten local convention and visitor bureaus in proximity to the Toll Road are members of the commission.95 "The I-89/90 Corridor Commission is one of the State's leading regional organizations. It actively promotes northern Indiana through a variety of cooperative efforts."96
A county or municipality may establish a redevelopment commission to promote assistance in the revitalization of blighted areas and other areas within a redevelopment zone. All areas within the boundaries of the municipality or county (except those of the county within a separate municipal redevelopment commission) constitute a taxing district for the purposes of collecting a special benefits tax.97 A redevelopment commission may acquire "any personal property or interest in real property needed for the redevelopment of blighted areas;" hold property needed for redevelopment; clear real property needed for development purposes; repair, maintain, or remodel structures acquired for redevelopment; employ surveyors, engineers, real estate experts, architects, and attorneys as needed to perform redevelopment; accept loans and grants from state and local government; and provide financial assistance to neighborhood development corporations.98
An example in Northwest Indiana is the Highland Redevelopment Commission. One of its goals is to assist existing businesses in "taking the next step in their progress." In addition, an effort to motivate businesses in Illinois and elsewhere to relocate within the municipality may be pursued. The Town of Highland recently appropriated $50,000 to the Highland Redevelopment Commission.99
The future economic consequences of development are among those to be considered at the local level for planning and zoning. The exercise of planning and zoning is to provide that "new communities grow only with adequate public way, utility, health, education and recreational facilities." The growth of the community is to be "commensurate with and promotive of the efficient and economical use of public funds."100 The development of a "comprehensive plan" is a prerequisite to the development of a zoning ordinance.101 A comprehensive plan is to be designed for "the promotion of public health, safety, morals, convenience, order, or the general welfare and for the sake of efficiency and economy in the process of development."102