An environmental group has raised concerns about St. Joseph County’s development plans in the New Carlisle area. Tribune Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES
An environmental group has raised concerns about St. Joseph County’s development plans in the New Carlisle area. Tribune Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES
SOUTH BEND — A group that opposes plans to develop an industrial park near New Carlisle says emails obtained through a public records request show county officials have withheld information to avoid scrutiny of the project.

“They’ve been specifically hiding information from us because they know that we have been critical in looking at what is actually going on,” said Garrett Blad, a member of the St. Joseph County Open Space and Agricultural Alliance (OSAA), a group of environmentalists, farmers and others.

Several emails between county staff and county-hired consultants were distributed by the group, which obtained several months worth of messages. The alliance described the emails as evidence of a lack of transparency about the development of the Indiana Enterprise Center, and dozens of supporters filled council chambers Tuesday night during the County Council meeting.

“That (public record) request, which had gone unfilled for months,” said OSAA member Chris Cobb, “was acted on shortly after we brought this situation to your attention in September.”

The industrial park would be situated on about 22,000 acres near New Carlisle that is currently dominated by farmland. So far, the county has earmarked more than $3 million to go toward consultant fees for planning and studies.

The county’s economic development director, Bill Schalliol, said the accusations about transparency and avoiding public engagement are “extremely disingenuous.”

“They’ve read 5,000 of my emails. I would argue that we’ve been extremely transparent through this process,” Schalliol said. “Nobody’s made a phone call or sent us an email and asked to sit down with us. They’re lurking around, asking for emails.”

In one email from this March, Eric Neagu, a principal with consulting firm Antero Group, wrote that “everyone NOT OSAA gets the information they need to be smart about the project” and mentioned a strategy to “ensure more sensible heads” understand the planning process for the industrial park.
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