UPDATED: Activists are again calling for greater transparency over the Indiana Enterprise Center (IEC) after they received stacks of emails through a public records request.
The IEC is a proposed industrial park development on land between South Bend and New Carlisle. The Open Spaces and Agricultural Alliance (OSAA) says the plan for the Center has been made behind closed doors. They say it threatens the drinking water in the area and will turn rich farmland into brownfields.
The project has been in planning since late 2017. The County’s Division on Economic Development says it’s taking the time to do it right and that the land has been developed in some way for decades.
Garrett Blad with the Alliance said the emails show consultants and planners purposefully keeping things from the public. “We’re only going to have a successful plan when there’s buy-in from constituents. So really this is a reckless project to think we can force-fed an industrial-megaplex down the throats of county residents when they haven’t had any input in the process itself.”
“We’ve gone out of our way to open the doors,” said Bill Schalliol with the Economic Development division. He said there have been many public meetings throughout the process, several of which the OSAA have attended.
Chris Cobb with the OSAA said county planning should be updated, but “It should be done through an open and inclusive process that establishes an updated vision for the future of St. Joseph County. It shouldn’t be updated by a group of people who’ve been working in secret.”
Cobb and Blad both said development would be better done in places that have already been developed, like blighted spaces in South Bend.
Schalliol said it’s up to property owners to make the decision on whether or not to sell their land to developers.
He said they expect to have a draft plan for review by the council, and in public meetings, around the end of the month.
The Alliance plans to attend Tuesday’s County Council meeting to present the emails and again call for transparency.
**This post has been updated to include comments from the St. Joseph County division on Economic Development (5:45 p.m. 10/7/19 -JW)
If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donating at: https://wvpe.thankyou4caring.org/