St. Joseph County expands development area near New Carlisle over opposition from residents
Despite opposition from many New Carlisle residents, St. Joseph County officials Tuesday approved a measure to expand development activities in the area.
The measure adds around 1,500 acres to the existing 5,500-acre area, which St. Joseph County’s Economic Development Director Bill Schalliol said is necessary for the county to raise money for improvements to the site of the General Motors battery plant.
“By the end of 2025 and early 2026 we will be working on road projects, finishing up utilities and doing a series of other improvements,” Schalliol said. "We are on a tight timeline, we have to move forward, we need to keep moving forward."
The agreement previously signed by the county and GM, requires the county install certain water and road infrastructure for the project to stay on course. Redevelopment and legal staff informed council members that if the improvements are not completed on time, GM could sue the county.
However, expanding the New Carlisle Economic Development Area also means putting 309 properties onto a “property acquisition list” which could be eyed by the redevelopment commission for future projects.
Though Schalliol said the measure does not give the county free rein to buy any property on the list, residents of New Carlisle voiced concerns about their wishes being ignored.
“This is county government overreach,” Caruso said. “The people have indicated what we would like out there, how we would like our town to look like. The county is saying ‘Ah, we don’t care.’”
In public meetings both Monday and Tuesday, other residents said the move was being rushed through and that the industrial area would become too large.
The council voted 8-1 to pass the economic area. Joseph Thomas, whose district includes New Carlisle, was the lone vote against.
Before the vote, council member Bryan Tanner pointed out, that the county would be ill-served by going back on the development, though he understands the concerns.
"In the vote that we cast before, to go reverse on those actions now on that now would have dire economic consequences. Not only now, but many years into the future," Tanner said.
The expansion of the economic zone also comes as another large project is beginning to materialize in the same area.
Last week, the redevelopment commission approved a contract with a company called Razor5 LLC to do survey work on an 800-acre site near Huckleberry and Gordon roads southeast of New Carlisle.
County leaders have not named the company Razor5 represents, saying the survey is preliminary. Schailliol has clarified Razor5 is not related to Razor scooters and he told Inside Indiana Business the project could be similar in size to the General Motors plant.
Razor5 has already put $1 million in escrow, meaning landowners will receive that amount if no deal emerges.