On the agenda it called the Monday, Feb. 3 gathering a New Castle City Council meeting. But once the gavel came down and discussion began, it easily could have been mistaken for an economic development forum.

Council members enthusiastically approved motions to support a planned housing development at Northfield Park and re-stated their support for the city’s membership in the Eastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (EIRPC). They also learned the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp. is celebrating a 40th birthday this year.

The prospect of new housing opportunities was like icing on the EDC birthday cake. New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp. President Corey Murphy guided the council through a procedural resolution to keep the Northfield Park housing project proposal moving forward.

Local developer Jeff Smiley intends to build 80+ condominiums east and north of the Henry County YMCA. The housing addition would require new roads built in the area, connecting the homes to Garner Street, N. Memorial Drive and New York Avenue. A developer-backed bond issue will be used to fund the infrastructure improvements.

The resolution amends the original northwest allocation area to designate a new Northfield Village Housing Allocation Area, including construction of road infrastructure and drainage improvements needed to support the development.

“This is one step along a multi-step process to support a housing development out by the YMCA,” Murphy explained. “You’re basically approving what the plan commission said.”

The New Castle Planning Commission adopted an order Jan. 29, finding the amendments conform to the plan of development for the city.

Jason Semler, a representative from Baker-Tilly, told city council members he would have a bond proposal to fund infrastructure for the Northfield Park housing project at the March meeting.

“We’re looking at a $2.9 million bond,” Semler said. “The only thing the city will be using is tax increment. If TIF is less than anticipated, the developer will cover that shortfall. The goal is hopefully this will drive development.”

Added to the measure was a downtown property—the Hope Initiative building—which officials may need to accommodate a developer for another housing project.

“The purpose of that is really just efficiency,” Murphy explained.

Discussions and planning continue in the hope that the old Sears Building, most recently known as Castle Place, could be transformed into a market rate housing complex. That project could necessitate the demolition of the Hope Initiative building.

Council members expressed “hope” Monday night that the housing projects will become a reality. Addition of market-rate housing options has long been viewed as a critical need for New Castle and Henry County growth.

In another economic development-related matter, Murphy handed out a colorful newsletter that featured a gold headline “Celebrating 40 Years.” The New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp. was formed in 1980. Murphy said more on the celebration and the four-decade impact of the EDC here would be forthcoming.

Before adjourning, council members voted to help keep local EDC efforts strong by renewing membership EIRPC. Councilman Jerry Walden recommended continuing the membership, emphasizing just being part of the group adds 25 points to a formula the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs uses to determine state grant recipients.

Council President Rex Peckinpaugh made the motion to continue membership, paying for it from the city’s share of state riverboat funds. His motion was unanimously supported.

However, former Council President Mark Koger said the organization, while valuable, needs to update its website. Walden said he would relay that to EIRPC officials.

“I appreciate you wanting to stay involved,” Murphy said. “If not, we’re an island and being an island will hurt us long term.”
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