SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) – Members of the Open Space and Agricultural Alliance organized outside the St. Joseph County-City Building in South Bend Monday with concerns about emails sent about the Indiana Enterprise Center.
The group says the proposed industrial park is in direct violation of the county’s current comprehensive plan.
“The economic development division was hatching this plan that could lead to the destruction of up to 22,000 acres of farmland, which is an area about two-thirds the size of South Bend. That was in January of 2018,” OSAA member Chris Cobb said.
“There’s a lot of reference to 22,000 acres of development – you’re going to pave corner to corner 22,000 acres. The core development area for this project area is 7,200 acres, and of that 7,200 acres, 2,000 is already developed for nonagribusiness-related industrial development. So, we’re really looking at a much smaller area than people continue to return to,” said St. Joseph County economic development head Bill Shalliol.
The OSAA says these documents show county officials denying public access to records and editing records before their release.
“There are indications of the desire to withhold information, presenting the public with only summaries of documents that don’t allow them to see the underlying data that’s being used for decision-making,” Cobb said.
“It’s a little bit disingenuous to say that the information isn’t available. I would argue that in some cases people just haven’t come and taken the time to set meetings to have those conversations,” Shalliol said.
OSAA members say that more than $3.3 million of county funds have already been spent planning the IEC.
The IEC is a proposed 20,000-acre industrial park east of New Carlisle.