North Manchester moving forward with land purchase

By Shaun Tilghman

It was standing room only during Wednesday’s public hearing at the North Manchester Public Safety Complex, as the Town’s Redevelopment Commission (RDC) received input from residents regarding the proposed purchase of 92 acres, located north of 9th Street from the railroad tracks west to SR 13, for a potential housing development.

The RDC and the Town Council both approved resolutions giving the green light to the project.

For more than 25 years, various discussions have been held throughout North Manchester about the need for a housing development, according to a recent news release issued by Town officials.

The main reasons nothing has been able to be accomplished thus far are identified as the unavailability of land in a large enough quantity, and the lack of interest from developers unless land became available.

Project Background
During the public hearing, Town Council President Chris Garber pointed out that the Town Forum determined housing was an issue more than 20 years ago. Approximately 10-12 years ago, the Town Forum even established a Housing Committee.

“When we tried to talk to developers, fairly consistently we found that they wouldn’t deal with us because they could go to Fort Wayne, buy their land there, and quickly sell 100 lots,” said Garber, “whereas, we’re hoping to sell 10 lots at a time. So, we were not a big economic advantage for them; however, we did receive the advice that we should partner with a developer in some way.

“The easiest, or most practical, way for us to do that – and not be the developer ourselves – is to purchase the land, which is exactly what we’re proposing to do tonight. We worked very hard looking for acreage over the last few years, and there have been very few options, and even for those there was the need to extend water, sewer, and all the things that will make it easy to start putting a shovel in the ground.”

In the spring, town officials learned that Peabody Retirement Community was planning to auction the land, but the town would have had a difficult time trying to acquire the land that way. Eventually, Peabody agreed to just sell the land to the town, so they had two appraisals done and averaged the results to set the purchase price.

Housing vs. Jobs
Susan Egolf, of 1604 Frantz Drive, was the first to speak during the public hearing.

“I’m concerned, because I don’t know that we need housing,” Egolf said. “We need jobs to bring the people in to buy what houses we have here. I don’t think that we need the Town to be a broker – if a developer wants to come put houses in there then let them use their money.”
Toby Tobias, of 606 N. Walnut Street, also provided input regarding whether the town should be pursuing more housing or more jobs.

“I was elected in the Primary to be the District 5 Town Council Representative,” Tobias explained, “and what people have been coming to me with is exactly what’s already been talked about – the need for jobs. I agree entirely, but I’ve contacted as many people as I can that hold either ownership or management positions in large companies, and every one of them said they wouldn’t even look at a town unless there’s newer, abundant housing.

“So, I feel that residential grows commercial, commercial grows industrial, and industrial feeds residential, and we’ve got to get something going somewhere in that loop. We need to grow, and until someone comes up with something better, I think this is the best option for the Town going forward.”

New Housing Stock
In a recent interview, Garber told the North Manchester News-Journal that these would not be low-income building lots, and stressed that they would be looking at $150,000-$200,000 homes.

Todd Richards, of 101 E. 9th Street, stated that, when his aunt and uncle died, he and his sister became the owners of what was left of Riverdale, which was the Town’s last housing development. “One of the things we discovered, was that there was a need for better housing,” he added.

“We developed Riverdale in three sections,” Richards continued, “and for the last section we increased the square footage requirement to get bigger, nicer homes. We ended up selling those lots in half the time that we did the others.

“Hopefully we can bring industry in, and if we can, then executives will be looking at places to live, and they’ll probably want nicer homes than what we have on our market. So, I think it’s a great idea, especially knowing that we don’t have to do it all at one time.”

Keith Gillenwater, President and CEO of the Economic Development Group of Wabash County, explained that the lack of executive-style housing is a definite problem not only in North Manchester, but across Wabash County.

“You’re planning for the long-term future of the community to be able to plan for executive-style housing and those types of things,” Gillenwater said. “The last big executive-style housing development that had any lots available was at the Honeywell Golf Course, but that’s basically down to a couple of lots. So, there’s a need for it, and there’s a lack of it. This is a tried and true economic development strategy that other communities are also pursuing.

“I would also say that, from my personal standpoint, when I first took this job in Wabash County seven months ago, I looked for a house in North Manchester. My wife works here in North Manchester and it made more sense for us to be up here, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for.

“The kinds of houses that you’re proposing to build is what I was looking for – a house in the $150,000-$200,000 range rather than a $100,000 house that I had to put $75,000 worth of improvements into to make it worth $150,000. I don’t have the time to do those kinds of projects, so that’s just not what I was looking for. I think it’s a great thing that you’re looking at, and I would certainly encourage you to do it.”

The Resolutions
Following the hearing, Clerk-Treasurer Carrie Mugford to read RDC Resolution No. 4, 2015, which is a resolution of the North Manchester Redevelopment Commission confirming their Declaratory Resolution establishing Economic Development Area No. 2 in the Town of North Manchester.

Members of the RDC voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, which also involves the sale of bonds in order to purchase the land.

When the Town Council convened, Mugford read the resolution about the Town Council’s interest in acquiring real estate for future economic development and redevelopment in the town through the Redevelopment Commission. The resolution went on to acknowledge that the RDC had adopted a bond resolution authorizing the issuance of bonds, and that a form of purchase agreement for the real estate had been prepared.

Under the resolution, Town Manager Dave Schoeff will act as the purchasing agent for the town and the RDC.

The purchase of the land is approved, and officers of the Town and the RDC are authorized to take such actions as are necessary to complete the purchase, including execution of the purchase agreement.

Purchase Agreement
The final aspect of the project to be addressed on Wednesday evening was the purchase agreement between Peabody and the town, with the entire purchase price set at $544,500.

According to the agreement, the purchase is conditioned on the town’s ability to complete the sale of the municipal bonds in the amount of the purchase price. The closing for the transaction is contracted to take place on or before Dec. 31, 2015.

Included in the purchase agreement is one restriction on use, which states that the town and the town’s successors in interest agree that, for a period of 50 years from the closing of the purchase, the land cannot be used for the construction or occupancy of an assisted living facility, skilled nursing facility, memory care facility, or any elderly housing that would provide any of the material services provided by Peabody or Peabody’s successor in interest.

Posted on 2015 Sep 08