River Road improvements left hanging in TIF dispute
By Karen Kennedy
Anyone who makes the trip along River Road from Carmel to Noblesville could see the benefit in improving the stretch of road south of 146th Street.
In 2008, an economic development plan established a TIF district for the Legacy Development, a project of Platinum Properties, and this money would be used by the developer to fund infrastructure along River Road for the 500-acre development spanning the land southwest of the intersection of 146th Street and River Road.
But the planned construction of homes and businesses on the land stalled during the recession. The note on the land was ultimately sold by the financing bank in 2011 to a Virginia-based investment group called Falcon Nest, which in turn hired Platinum Properties back on as the project manager.
With the project back on track, Paul Rioux of Platinum Properties went to the Nov. 21 Carmel Redevelopment Commission meeting to get the TIF confirmed. He was told that the CRC would look into it, but his request was not confirmed at that time.
City Councilor Sue Finkham sent CRC president Bill Hammer an email asking him why the developer’s request was not approved. He replied that, due to the fact that the project has stalled, no increment had accumulated.
That was not the case, according to documents from the County Auditor’s office.
Regardless of whether or not the project was moving forward, the TIF funds for the Legacy Development, totaling $1,027,417.81 were being paid out to the CRC from 2008, forward, as follows:
At its Dec. 4 meeting, the CRC agreed that the developer should be entitled to the TIF that has accumulated. On Dec. 9 a settlement statement will be prepared by the County Auditor’s office which stated that there was $63,945.40 available in the fund for the developer’s use.
So what happened to the other $963,472.41?
It went into the CRC’s budget and it was spent.
“This was one of the city’s TIF districts,” said Mayor Jim Brainard in an email. “The funds were not encumbered by a developer agreement (in fact, the original developer filed under the bankruptcy code). The funds from previous years were used for projects that benefitted the TIF area as required by state law.”
Brainard did not detail any specific projects that were completed since 2011.
“The city has many TIF districts and it is from these TIF funds that redevelopment bonds are paid. The City Center development benefits not only all of Carmel but the entire region and surplus TIF has been spent on that debt service. Sometimes, a specific use is specified; the mechanism for doing that is with a developer agreement. In this case, the CRC approved a developer agreement (at the Dec. 4 CRC meeting).”
“We just assumed that (the CRC) would know that those funds were earmarked for River Road,” said Loren Matthes, principal at Umbaugh and Associates, whose firm wrote the Legacy Project economic development plan. “The plan called for the bonds to be issued, but then they were never issued. And some of these guys weren’t around when it was written and (CRC board president) Bill Hammer probably doesn’t remember.”
CRC board members Bill Hammer and Dave Bowers and CRC attorney Karl Haas did not respond to requests for comment.
“We’re still trying to understand what’s going on,” Rioux said. “As a residential developer, we don’t deal with TIF funds much. Back in 2008, when the project stopped, we didn’t know if those funds would accumulate or not. But I guess they were accumulating. We’re just trying to figure out if there’s anything we can do about it. We didn’t make our plans based on the fact that the money was going to be there, but that doesn’t mean that the money shouldn’t be there.”