Protesters call for transparency from St. Joseph Co. over new development

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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - As plans for a 22,000-acre industrial development for New Carlisle continue to move forward, groups against the project continue to voice their concerns in St. Joseph County.

Ahead of the St Joseph County Council meeting Tuesday night, a group protested outside the County-City Building over the development of the Indiana Enterprise Center. They also took to public comment during the meeting, calling for transparency in the planning.

Some said the county needs to keep their hands off farmers' land.

"I think our St Joseph County government is way overstepping its reach and trying to develop land owned by private citizens," said Andy Oldham, a farmer from New Carlisle.

Rafael Morton, President of St. Joseph County Council, responded to protesters, saying, "The gist of the conversation this evening was, please don't take our land; its not that simple."

Plans are still in the works for the Indiana Enterprise Center, an industrial development bringing business to the New Carlisle area.

"This is a huge project that has been happening without public input. There hasn't been a single public meeting about this in over a year, and I think one public meeting in all," said Garrett Blad, organizer of the St. Joseph County Open Space and Agricultural Alliance.

Here are what some of the community members had to say:

"Either it's county money endlessly being flushed down a hole of consultants, or it's a community continually feeling like it's being threatened by its own government," one speaker said.

"With almost no public input towards the IEC, I can't say if this scheme sounds like a good idea at all. You see, once you pave farmland, you can't unpave it," another noted.

"Stop the insanity, learn from history. Start listening to your constituents, not dead presidents," still another advised.

The council says it is happy to have heard from the community but says it does not oversee the St. Joseph County Redevelopment Commission, which has been planning the Enterprise Center.

"The commission is not directly under our budget or our control, and that's really where I believe is a major part of disconnect," Morton said.

Morton added that the plans for the industrial development are not a done deal, and although the council does not oversee the redevelopment commission, they will pass along what they heard tonight.

"Talk to Bill Schalliol and the rest of the redevelopment commission and express to them that we would like to see better communications, more transparency, because we continue to hear that," Morton said.