Council letter to Redevelopment

The Fort Wayne City Council sent a letter to the Fort Wayne Redevelopment’s Executive Director, Nancy Townsend on August 5, 2020.

Redevelopment leaders have been invited to address the City Council on August 18, 2020 at 5:30 pm. Due to COVID only essential participants will be allowed into the session, but it will be streamed on City TV and Facebook.

Fort Wayne City Councilman Russ Jehl stated:

Reasonable people disagree on the wisdom of Electric Works’ public funding and whether it was time to pull the plug. Regardless, we all deserve a real explanation and a plan moving forward, which is why Council members of both sides of the issue signed the letter and President Didier is adding Redevelopment to our agenda

Text of the letter:

VIA EMAIL AND HAND-DELIVERED

August 5, 2020

Nancy Townsend
Fort Wayne Redevelopment
200 East Berry Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46802

Dear Nancy,

After the Redevelopment Commission meeting on Monday, August 3, 2020 where the Commission unanimously decided to cancel the Economic Development Agreement (the EDA), many members of the Fort Wayne City Council have been left with many questions and concerns. Many more questions are going to come up over the next few weeks as the ramifications of this decision start to come into focus.

The first question for right now is what is the plan moving forward?

Springing from that overarching question, will the City still be working with RTM (the Developer) in any capacity on the Electric Works Campus, or are we moving on completely? Does the fact that the City does not own the land factor into this decision making process? The Developer has a publically recorded loan. Can you share the details of that loan? Since fear of default was listed as one of the reasons the City was terminating the agreement, under what circumstances do you expect them to default on that or other loans?

When the EDA was in effect, the City had right of first refusal on purchasing the land. It is assumed that now that the EDA has been canceled, that no longer exists. Is obtaining the property a priority? What will the City, through Redevelopment, be doing to insure future development more in line with City priorities? At what point will you be looking for new developers? What assurances will be provided to Council that the next deal will be less costly to the taxpayer? Now that the property has been increased in value with public dollars, have you formally asked the Assessor to re-assess the property?

It is understood that there have been outstanding debts owed to the City, including possible fines to Neighborhood Code Compliance, unmade City Utility payments, and potential application fees related to incentive programs like New Market Tax Credits. How much is owed by RTM and what is the plan for recouping those public dollars? Will the City be able to salvage any of the state and federal credits awarded to the project? What does our outlook on these programs look like moving forward?

The Fort Wayne City Council approved funding for Electric Works almost two years ago. Since then, we understand there have been continuous updates and monitoring done by Redevelopment staff and other partners, but very little information has been provided back to Council in any form of update, except by the Developers. What started as a very transparent process with our partners and the public has devolved into something else. Council has advocated for transparency and partnership with you and the Administration, but instead learned of the EDA’s abrupt cancellation without any consultation. Furthermore, other municipal partners apparently received no notice and the public had zero input.

The public deserves an explanation beyond an unelected board terminating an agreement that numerous elected bodies have spent years working on, as do the members of the Fort Wayne City Council who were a partner in this process. We would appreciate an answer to the questions posed here, either in writing or at the Council table. The community deserves full transparency.

I believe all parties recognize the great effort that you have put into this project on all fronts. You have been collaborative and transparent during a process that has been difficult to navigate and deserve thanks and appreciation for all you have done. Council looks forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

  • Paul Ensley – 1st District
  • Russell Jehl – 2nd District
  • Tom Didier – 3rd District
  • Goeff Paddock – 5th District
  • Sharon Tucker – 6th District
  • Michelle Chambers – At-Large
  • Tom Freistroffer – At-Large
  • Glynn Hines – At-Large

Fort Wayne City Councilman Jason Arp, 4th District, did not sign the letter.

August 5, 2020 Fort Wayne City Council letter to Redevelopment.

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