Shoppes on 6 strip mall plans generate mild exasperation among some Elkhart officials

The city has agreed to provide $3 million for the plans, which call for a Ross Dress for Less, PetSmart and Shoe Carnival, among other stores.

Posted on July 15, 2014 at 11:46 p.m.

ELKHART — The proposed Shoppes on Six development at Cassopolis Street and C.R. 6 seems to have generated exasperation among some Elkhart officials.

Three items related to the project came up for consideration by the Elkhart Board of Public Works on Tuesday, July 15, and, in response to last-minute changes to a proposed accord on the matter, a degree of annoyance bubbled to the surface.

Mike Machlan, president of the board, noted the project developer, Thompson Thrift of Carmel, changed the parameters of the project as it has evolved and missed certain deadlines. After voting against one of the measures related to the project at Tuesday’s meeting, Arvis Dawson, a member of the board and assistant to Mayor Dick Moore, said he was “very irritated.”

The Shoppes on Six plans call for construction of a strip mall at the southwest corner of the Cassopolis-C.R. 6 crossing, just west of Walmart. Dunkin’ Donuts and Penn Station Subs franchises recently opened there and the proposed anchor building will house Ross Dress for Less, PetSmart and Shoe Carnival. The city has agreed to provide $3 million in funds for the proposal, to be repaid with tax increment finance district funds, and it has been a periodic topic of discussion at City Hall.

Aside from the minor grumbling Tuesday, the officials agreed to advertise publicly for bids for a portion of the project calling for public improvements, including construction of an access road, traffic signals and a water retention pond. City money “is involved” in the phase, though Thompson Thrift will oversee the work, according to a memo on the matter.

The measure passed 4-1, with Dawson dissenting due to his apparent irritation.

Officials tabled another measure swapping land between the city and Thompson Thrift that’s to be used for the retention pond. Maggie Marnocha, attorney for the board, said she sent what was supposed to be a final agreement outlining the land deal to Thompson Thrift officials last week. The developer’s attorneys, however, were making changes to the document as of Tuesday morning, she said, which seemed to spur the display of exasperation.

They approved a third measure revamping the land map for the plot of land for the development.

In other action Tuesday, the board:

  • Approved a plan meant to reduce mercury coming to the city’s wastewater treatment plant via a voluntary program aimed at dental offices, thought to be the source of the metal. Mercury, which can deteriorate the human nervous system, is used in some dental fillings, and the plan, among other things, calls for use of devices at dentists’ offices to collect amalgam waste containing mercury so it doesn’t enter the wastewater system. Officials have said if a voluntary program doesn’t work, the city could move to a mandatory one.
  • Approved “delisting” of EK Blessing’s municipal wastewater discharge permit. Production at the brass musical instrument maker seemed to be on the wane last March, and in a June 30 letter from the company to city officials, a company rep said operations had ceased at its 2995 Paul Drive plant as of March 31. Sales operations will continue at the Paul Drive site until transfer of equipment housed at the location.
  • Briefly considered a proposal to prohibit left turns from Beardsley Avenue onto Riverview Drive but tabled action to first get word out to area residents. The aim is to reduce the accident rate at the crossing, site of nine crashes in the last two years.
  • Accepted a $403,646 bid from Harold Ziegler Ford for purchase of 14 vehicles for the Elkhart Police Department, including eight patrol vehicles.
  • Appropriated a $21.77 million loan from a state revolving fund for planned upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment plant and improvements to the wastewater collection system in downtown Elkhart. The rate on the low-interest loan will be 2 percent, which will save up to $8 million in interest compared to the cost of higher-interest loans from the open market, according to Machlan.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.

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